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Following questionable survey results, Rick Kriseman reaffirms vision of diversity and inclusion

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is reaffirming his commitment to furthering diversity and inclusion within city government after results from a city survey were released showing nearly all employees agreed with a diverse mission, but saw holes in the actual implementation of those same priorities.

A survey of more than a third of the city’s 3,000 employees showed 95 percent of them agree there should be equal support and opportunities to grow in their careers. However, in that same survey a much smaller percentage indicated that culture was not necessarily in effect.

While a vast majority felt it was important for all employees to have equal opportunities for growth in the workplace, only 30 percent agreed their department “uses systems that make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to be successful.”

In a memo sent to city staff Wednesday, Kriseman wrote those results “affirmed many positive elements of our workplace” but they also “revealed a number of opportunities for improvement.”

Kriseman wrote that he and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin are committed to furthering a commitment to building a diverse and fair work place and said there is already a system in place to foster continued improvement. But he also placed some of the onus on individual employees.

“We have embarked on a plan toward that end and will work on it every day. But it is important to note that the hardest work and our only true path toward progress will happen outside the walls of City Hall,” Kriseman wrote. “Each of you will have a voice to ensure we create a culture that is defined by inclusivity and opportunity. This effort requires the commitment of every member of our City team.”

The survey found, among other things, that most employees are satisfied with the city’s diverse climate and feelings of inclusion. Though there were more employees who doubted actual implementation than those who agreed with the sentiment, open-ended comments from the survey revealed isolated comments from survey-takers revealing potential racial tension among African-American employees and even some in the LGBT community.

Several comments noted opportunities for African-American employees were lacking when compared to their white counterparts. Some women also commented that opportunities were not necessarily as equally available.

“I hold every member of our team accountable to this standard and to living our vision and our values,” Kriseman wrote emphasizing his commitment to bringing actual morale to levels equal to those expressed through employee expectations. “We will work directly with leadership throughout the organization to ensure changes that reflect the specific needs of each department. And, we will take the time to celebrate success and wins as we make progress.”

Kriseman also thanked the employees who participated in the voluntary survey, noting that the company contracted to oversee the survey indicated the results were higher than expected.

“We believe it reflects our team’s engagement and prioritization of this important issue,” Kriseman said.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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