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MOVING FORWARD: Diversifying Omaha’s city government

Posted at 7:33 AM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 08:33:08-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Keith Station says the Mayor’s office is making strides with diversity and inclusion.

Station was hired as the City of Omaha’s first-ever Deputy Chief of Staff for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Prior to joining Mayor Jean Stothert's team in September 2020, Station worked for the Workforce Investment Board at Heartland Workforce Solutions, which focuses on removing barriers to fair and equal employment.

“Everybody has bias. And acknowledging that and talking through that, is helping people have a better understanding of what bias is and that we all have it, then you can address it,” Station told 3 News Now. Mayor Stothert and Station sat down for an interview with 3 News Now Anchor Maya Saenz.

As for his responsibilities, Station says the Mayor has asked him to help diversify city ranks. “And to help spread a culture of inclusion around city hall and beyond in all city departments and that's what I've taken on first. The mayor has allowed me to get immersed in all the different city departments, public safety, and police, fire, and all the different operations in the city."

Stothert said after last summer’s protests, it was the perfect time to hire someone like Station, who was eager and dedicated to help diversify the city, her staff, and help tackle some of the community’s demands from the protests.

“During that time, we talked a lot about racism. We talked a lot about diversity and inclusion, we wanted to respond to that too, and so I felt like this was a good time to say, okay, I will hire a deputy chief of staff for diversity, equity and inclusion, and so we hired Keith,” said Stothert.

Station’s responsibilities include bringing in more diversity into city government and leadership, creating bias training for city employees and helping Mayor Stothert diversify the City’s Boards and Commissions.

“I appoint over 60 boards and commissions,” said Stothert. “And that's one thing Keith and I are working on because these are people that I appoint and if we aren't getting people expressing interest in these positions, I reach out because I want to make sure that when I appoint to these boards, that they are diverse."

Station is also tasked with attracting more gender and racially diverse candidates to apply to city jobs. He’s focused on listing positions for key roles in different places and in different ways to ensure job descriptions include language that’s welcoming to various cultures and abilities.

In early 2021, Stothert also signed the Great Omaha Chamber’s Commitment to Opportunity Diversity and Equity (CODE) initiative, which along with nearly 200 other local CEOs, pledges to eradicate racism and promote employment and diversity training.

“All city employees will have an opportunity to go through training above the one they already take, and it's meant to not be a one-time thing, but help to establish and reinforce the kind of culture, and inclusive culture that we'd like to see in the city of Omaha,” said Station.

Stothert said Keith’s role in her office is already making a difference in Omaha and helping the City move forward.

“I think his presence out in the community, attending not only things in the neighborhood but other organizations and really getting out there saying, we're the city of Omaha and I'm from the Mayor's office, and showing that we want to make meaningful change. We want to be a part of the change. We don't want to sit back and see what other people are doing. We want to be leaders in this change and hope that others will follow,” said Stothert.

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