Athens-Clarke County has a new Inclusion Officer: Krystle Cobran, who was appointed on Oct. 18 by ACC Manager Blaine Williams. Cobran will lead ACC’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity, a new office that is part of a wider initiative focused on community diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Inclusion Office, a division of the Mayor’s Office, was funded starting July 1 as part of ACC’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
In 2017, a report concerning diversity and equity in ACC detailed multiple facets of inequality within Athens based on race, including the percentage of the population under the poverty line, graduation rates and employment rates.
In early 2019, the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusion and Equity presented ten goals to the ACC government with the purpose of devising “a plan to make Athens-Clarke County a more welcoming and inclusive community.” The Inclusion Office was recommended as one of these ten goals.
The Office is made up of a 12 member board directed by an Inclusion Officer, according to an email from Mayor Kelly Girtz. The board will have three resident members appointed by the Mayor and Commission and one member from each of nine local social justice-oriented community organizations.
“The office will be able to both assist in broad outreach to the Athens community, as well as providing a way for us to ‘look ourselves in the mirror’ and do the best job as public employees that we can possibly do,” said Girtz in the email.
The Inclusion Office will work with all ACC departments and offices and “will focus efforts on areas including race, color, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disabilities,” according to an Oct. 18 news release.
Some of the goals of the office include acknowledging the history of disparate treatment of minorities in Athens, advancing minority employment and providing forums for community discussion of inclusion, according to Girtz. ACC has not yet announced specific events for the future of the office.
Athens was inspired by other cities with similar offices, including Nashville, Austin and Atlanta, according to Girtz.
“One of the most important things that this office can do is to listen to the needs of our community and the needs of the various stakeholders within our community, so that we can begin to connect more and understand each other better,” said Cobran.
A graduate of George Washington University’s Law School, Cobran previously served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Cobran taught undergraduate courses on race and law at the University of Georgia as a visiting lecturer in 2016.
“The classroom is one of the places where I learned how important it is to actively listen, to resist defaulting to my assumptions and to do my best to stay present and engage with what’s happening right now,” said Cobran. “In the book, I share a lot of mistakes and missteps that I made and how important it is [to be] willing to learn and bounce back and shift in a way that’s responsive so that we can create ongoing two-way communication.”
The office will be funded through ACC’s general fund, according to an email from Girtz. According to ACC’s FY2020 budget in brief, the general fund supports most basic government services, including police and fire services, the courts and public works, and is primarily supported by tax revenue.