COLORADO SPRINGS — The city of Colorado Springs has hired a new program manager who's responsibility will be to promote diversity and community outreach. Danielle Summerville will be charged with strengthening the city's relationships with diverse populations throughout the community via community engagement, stakeholder collaboration and program development. Ms. Summerville will also work proactively with city administration in driving recruitment of a diverse candidate field for both civilian and sworn positions.
I had a chance to sit down and talk "One On One" with the 41 year old Summerville recently, who began her new job this week, earning $112,000 a year.
She told me she is very excited to begin this new chapter in her life, after serving the past 19 years with Big Brothers-Big Sisters in Colorado Springs, a mentoring program bringing people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicity, socio-economic status, together. She says this new position fits her skill set, "And, so I really saw this position as being about powerful relationships, how can the city engage in powerful relationships to diverse populations of the community."
I have lived in Colorado Springs going on 32 years now, and I have seen the population double in that time, and with that, a more diverse population has evolved, that some would argue, is not being served, at least as it relates to finding ways to reflect the makeup of an entire community in a way that affords opportunity for all, to perhaps make those who feel disenfranchised, for whatever reason, feel a part of a community that is predominantly white.
The summer of 2020 was filled with discontent, demonstrations for weeks in the city in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others across the country, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, so I asked Ms. Summerville, if the establishment of her new position was just a coincidence or the direct result of the call for change, the demonstrations, the riots. She told me, "It's not that it's a direct result or coincidence, the city of Colorado Springs has been working on EDI, equity, diversity and inclusion work for a while and so this position was already in the works, so the timing may appear to be a coincidence, but the position was already in the works before those protests began".
But the timing is important, the clear message coming from those who organized the protests locally this summer, told me and others, repeatedly, that change needs to be made in Colorado Springs, they want to see positive steps taken so they feel they have a seat at the table, and through the newly created Police Law Lnforcement Transparency And Accountability Commission, and this new community outreach program, steps in the right direction. Opportunity, making a community connection, Ms. Summerville told me, is what this is all about. "And there are pathways that we're creating so citizens feel like they can share their concerns, voice their concerns, but also, be constructive and be part of the solution to helping the city grow together."
She envisions the development of programs in the city, working with existing non profits, religious organizations, businesses and institutions of higher learning as a pathway to progress, and bring more diversity to the workforce. "And it would be wonderful if people in the community", she said, "diverse people in the community, knew about those opportunities and I think from there, that's when we begin to also look at city structure to see where the opportunities to diversity the workforce in other areas."
Of course, everything is judged on results, tangible results, how will this new program move us in the right direction, I asked her, where will we be as a community a year from now, five years, when it comes to diversity and community outreach. Ms. Summerville said, and it's true, it takes all of us to make this work, this is not a one sided conversation, we need to engage and listen, especially to those who don't share our life experience. "Certainly being an African American woman maybe I have different experiences, but we also have shared experiences and so I hope to be a voice based on the experience that I bring to that position."
She told me she has a couple of people working directly with her in this new position, but she also has the city's Human Resources Department to draw from as well. We wish her success in her new role, as moving toward positive change is what thE outcry here and nationwide this year and for decades, has been all about.