Ron Scott Jr., cultural diversity and community outreach director at YWCA Wheeling, asks Ohio County commissioners why they haven’t acted to partner with the city on hiring a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator.
Ohio County commissioners were asked Tuesday night why they haven’t acted to approve the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator position for the Ohio Valley.
Ron Scott Jr., cultural diversity and community outreach director at YWCA Wheeling, addressed the commissioners on the issues at their meeting Tuesday night. Joining him in speaking was Crystal Bauer, director of Project HOPE in Wheeling.
Wheeling City Council in December voted to back the creation of a DEI coordinator – an employee expected to be shared with Ohio County Schools and the Ohio County Commission.
The school district has agreed to participate if the county commission gives its approval.
Commission President Don Nickerson said after the meeting the commission wasn’t yet convinced they should agree to the DEI coordinator’s shared position. But he indicated there could be more discussion between them.
“It’s just not something that after listening to constituents we thought we would support,” Nickerson said. “But we haven’t talked about it since they spoke. We listened to them tonight and we’ll talk about it again.”
Commissioner Zach Abraham said the commission has taken no official position on the matter.
“We haven’t voted on anything here,” he added.
Commissioner Randy Wharton said he had no additional comment, and that proponents already know his feelings.
Scott said it was “with a heavy heart and some disappointment” that he came before the commission.
“I am upset and a little disappointed that you have chosen to remove yourselves and withdraw support from the diversity, equity and inclusion position that the city of Wheeling is proposing,” he continued.
Scott described himself as an optimistic person who is full of hope.
“One of the things I’m hopeful for is maybe this decision isn’t written in stone. Maybe this is something the commission could rethink, because I think this is going to be an incredibly important position,” he said.
Scott said too often words such as “diversity,” “equity” and “woke” are demonized, and he hoped that didn’t factor into the commission’s decision.
“I am also hopeful the fine folks who are responsible for The Highlands and that fantastic sports complex there don’t use things like finances to not be a part of this position, and make some outstanding changes in this community,” he said.
Scott said he is also hopeful the commissioners won’t delay creating the DEI coordinator’s job by requesting more data, information, studies or surveys.
“What that says to people like myself, and other Black, Brown and disenfranchised and discriminated against people, is that you’ve seen our struggle. You know what is going on globally, locally and in the state or just in the county – yet we need more information,” he continued. “Yes, we see what is happening, but we need even more. That is what is disheartening to me.”
Scott added that while he may hope, “how do I instill hope in the folks behind me who are losing it rapidly?”
Bauer said she came as an ally of Scott, who has recognized a need in the community for a DEI coordinator. Data supports having DEI programs in place to provide equitable workplaces. These programs already exist in Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown, according to Bauer.
“Obviously, within the city of Wheeling there is room for improvement,” she told the commission.
The commission next meets at 6 p.m. on April 4 at the City-County Building in Wheeling.