The Anchorage Assembly confirmed the city’s first Chief Equity Officer on Tuesday, a new role dedicated to promoting equity in city government.
That includes making sure municipal hiring and contracting is fair and representative of the community, tracking how municipal resources are distributed and educating the community about its role in dismantling systemic inequity.
Chief Equity Officer Clifford Armstrong III recently moved from Tacoma, where he managed city programs focused on equitable hiring, contracting and workforce development. Armstrong said his role in Anchorage will involve a lot of community outreach.
“You’d be surprised at how difficult it is, even as the local government organization, to get to where community expectations are without the community doing their part. The community actually has a very significant, active role to play.”
Armstrong said he plans to look at racial disparities in Anchorage’s homeless population, and inequities in housing and healthcare. He also plans to evaluate hiring practices at the city.
“I have not looked at our specific hiring data here inside the Muni, but I’ve not been to an institution of this size yet that didn’t have some disparities within it. I am positive there’ll be something, but I mean, that’s also the work, right? Nothing stays static, there’s always something to get better at.”
Assembly members at Tuesday’s meeting said Armstrong’s background working on equity issues in local government was impressive, though members Meg Zalatel, Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy raised concerns the administration had not chosen an Anchorage resident for the position.
“This has nothing to do with Mr. Armstrong, I think that we need to take a look — and maybe this will be one of the roles for the Office of Equity and Justice — but how we recruit and how we reach out for these positions,” said Zalatel.
Armstrong was confirmed nine to one, with Allard as the lone no vote.