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    City's manager aims for diversity

    Steven Stanton offers a plan to commissioners Friday. It calls for improving and exploring diversity around the city.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 7, 2003


    LARGO -- After suffering through a stinging season of controversy, Largo's top administrator says the city record on diversity and racial issues needs work.

    City manager Steven Stanton offered a six-part plan in his weekly manager's report he hopes will improve the work environment at city hall, add more diversity to what has traditionally been an all-white work force and broaden dialogue in the community regarding the subject of race.

    Largo's population is more than 92 percent white.

    Stanton's plan calls for:

    Reassigning John Pittman, a supervisor in the city's solid waste department, to a special position exploring diversity within the city.

    Hiring a consultant to begin community outreach programs that would improve the city's diversity record in the workforce.

    Providing additional diversity training for supervisors.

    Beefing up the city's workplace discrimination policy.

    Enacting a human rights ordinance. Planning a Martin Luther King Day celebration for 2004.

    Pittman will be temporarily assigned to the diversity position for 60 to 90 days, but Stanton said the position could become permanent if the commission determines the city needs it.

    The new policy and ordinance requires commission approval.

    Stanton said he began working on the plan in December after the city came under fire for a series of incidents that portrayed the city in a poor light.

    A fire lieutenant was dismissed in November after she admitted making racists comments at work.

    A Fair Housing study documented bias against minorities renting apartments in the city.

    City officials canceled an inaugural celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying they were unable to coordinate efforts to join their celebration with neighboring Ridgecrest.

    "I think we are an inclusive community that has aspirations of reaching out and becoming a more heterogeneous community," Stanton said. "These issues are relevant and important to the city. We need to do the right thing for the right reasons."

    His plan was distributed to commissioners Friday.

    The idea for the celebration came about after commissioner Charlie Harper proposed renaming a street after King. Harper also pushed for a human rights ordinance in response to accusations of racism in the fire department. He was pleased to learn the city was making diversity a priority.

    "I think it was there all the time," Harper said. "It seems we were totally focused on several other issues. It's been brought to the forefront and I think the city will do the right thing."

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com .

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