St. Louis County implements resource group for BIPOC employees

St. Louis County implements resource group for BIPOC employees
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 2:01 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Striving for a more inclusive work environment, St. Louis County officials have established a resource group for Black, Indigenous, and POC employees.

For more than seven years, Tonia Villegas has been a Childcare Eligibility Worker for St. Louis County.

She says creating change often requires difficult conversations.

“Conversations that need to happen, that a lot of times are not able to happen,” Villegas said.

As leader of St. Louis County’s new BIPOC team, she can now help facilitate those conversations no matter where they take place.

“We now sit on hiring panels, we sit on communication teams, we are at career fairs, and we’re there for each other,” says Villegas.

The BIPOC Resource Group was formalized earlier in March, and they’re already working with county leadership to enact change.

They’re also part of a larger mission for the county.

“The long-term goal is really, more than inward facing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within St. Louis County as an employer, but really, it’s to benefit the entire region,” states Jim Gottschald, Director of Human Resources for St. Louis County.

He says employee resource groups are just one of 23 changes the county plans to implement all in the name of equity.

“We want people to know that St. Louis County is a welcoming vibrant community, committed to ensuring equitable outcomes and a sense of belonging for everybody who we serve,” Gottschald adds.

With the help of a diverse team, Villegas and Gottschald are working to see this mission through.

They say the key to their efforts is building trust.

“Until we can all work together everywhere, this work doesn’t get done. It doesn’t matter where we come from, and I just want it to be better for everyone,” explains Villegas

St. Louis County officials plan to organize more resource groups in the near future.