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May 10, 2023

Following tumultuous year, City of Worcester to increase funding for DEI office by 67%

A large light-colored brick building with two curved staircases leading up to the entrance and a pointed tower coming from the center. PHOTO | Timothy Doyle Worcester City Hall

The City of Worcester’s $848-million budget for the coming fiscal year is delivering on promises to give more resources and funding to the Executive Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, with a 67% increase in the financial allotment given to the office.

“We've made a commitment to supporting this work. We've committed the resources and the dollars behind it for it to happen,” City Manager Eric Batista said. “That structure and support is what is going to help to continue to strengthen this department moving forward and on the work that it needs to do across the city.”

The Fiscal 2024 Annual Operating Budget released on Friday slates $744,423 for the EODEI, up from $445,604 for the fiscal 2023 budget. This marks an increase of $298,819 given to the office.

In February, Batista released his plan to rename the Executive Office of Diversity and Inclusion to the Executive Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and expand its reach. This came after a September 2022 report conducted by a Quincy firm painted a grim picture of the City of Worcester’s shortcomings in the realm of DEI, which included poor communication and a resistance to change .

Batista and the City commissioned the report in the wake of the fallout of the March 2022 resignation of Stephanie Williams as the City’s chief diversity officer, the third person to leave the position after a short tenure since 2016. In her resignation letter, Williams said the City treated DEI initiatives as extra curricular activities and her office was not adequately supported to achieve its goals.

In 2022, Batista became the first person of color to be city manager for the City of Worcester. In an interview with WBJ, Batista said he didn’t want to hire Williams’ replacement until he could address the structural issues hampering the City’s DEI efforts.

Following the release of Batista’s EODEI restructuring plan in February, the City in April said it would seek an external executive search firm to find a chief equity officer.

The goal for the office, as written in the budget proposal, is “to restructure the Executive Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; to ensure it has the resources and authority to accelerate representation within the City workforce.”

The budget proposal indicates a goal from 2023 to increase staff for the EODEI is in progress. The City Council voted to approve the addition of seven new positions in the office, bringing the total from two to nine. This reorganization should be completed in 2024, according to the report titled “Empowering Progress: Investing in Equity, Talent, and Culture.”

An objective for the office for FY2024 is to hire and retain a City workforce and leadership that reflects the diverse community, according to the budget. 

“It's the system, it's the structure, it's the culture that we establish as a City that will hopefully bring candidates to be interested in working for the City and trying to drive this work on behalf of the municipality,” Batista said.

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