Councilors Back Haverhill’s Hiring of Diversity Officer to Oversee City, School Recruitment

Haverhill City Council President Melinda E. Barrett. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

Haverhill city councilors generally agree with a task force’s recommendation to hire a diversity officer to oversee hiring practices for city government jobs, private contractors and positions in the school department.

The consensus of councilors, hearing the recommendation last night of the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, is a full-time position should be created to oversee recruitment and hiring on both the city and school sides of local government. Pastor Kenneth Young, chairman of the Task Force, reported the committee agrees police department policies on the use of force are fair and in line with state guidelines. Members, however, are considerably less enthusiastic about the city’s hiring practices.

“When we looked at not only the city and the school systems, we will say there is a lack of people of color in every sector of the city of Haverhill. When you talk about the police force, fire department and our schools, there’s a lack of minorities that are represented,” he said.

Young, of Calvary Baptist Church, said his committee concluded the city has a long way to go to diversify in every area and recommended appointing someone to oversee hiring practices.

“We think and we recommend that the city of Haverhill create a Diversity Officer. We don’t just mean for the city but we are also looking at the school department as well. There’s a lack of diversity in the school department as well as in the city,” he added.

The mayor also presented figures showing, while there is a need for much greater diversity, there have been some improvements. Specifically, he noted that while the number of city employees dropped by 110 since 2003, the number of Latino employees increased from 11 to 32 and school minority employees went from 3.3 percent to 5.7 percent during that same time period.

Council President Melinda E. Barrett said the city has the money to immediately hire a full-time diversity officer. She explained she expects the city to add $9 million to its surplus next month when the state certifies Haverhill’s “free cash” in advance of the city’s annual tax classification hearing.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he is in favor of the plan, but stopped short of committing to hiring a new employee. Instead, he said, he would bring the suggestion to school Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

Following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn., Fiorentini created the committee to review the Haverhill Police Department’s use of force policy as well as the makeup and diversity of the city and school department workforce.

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