Race Equity Q&A with Waco City Manager Bradley Ford
New City Manager, Bradley Ford, shares his commitment to creating a more equitable community.
Bradley and his family moved to Waco three years ago after spending the prior 14 years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Since Bradley joined the City in 2017, he’s had an opportunity to lead critical city operations and high priority projects. His current position as City Manager calls for him to lead a diverse staff of more than 1,500 people who serve the citizens of Waco.
Q: What was one of the first things you noticed about the City’s leadership when you came to Waco?
A: It was an expectation that we in positions of public authority would know our history in the United States and in Waco. A history that includes widely successful innovations and economic prosperity; however, also includes deep and sustaining effects of a system that has perpetuated racial inequality. And I would say this has been one of the most personally impactful parts of my job - broadening my understanding of race equity. From the get-go, leadership of all races and ethnicities encouraged me to be part of the race equity conversation.
Q: Have you attended any trainings that have helped you learn about local and national history as it relates to race and racism?
A: Thus far in Waco, I have attended various trainings and conferences on race relations including the Racial Equity Institute (REI) through the Waco and Cooper Foundations, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), and Forward Cities. All have been impactful.
Q: What are some of the big takeaways you learned from these training opportunities?
A: During these trainings and my own subsequent readings, I have re-learned our shared history, including heart-wrenching examples of racism and race-based discrimination in the United States. History like the Waco Horror of 1916, the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, the Birmingham Campaign in 1963, and the Rochester Riots in 1964. My own personal library has expanded to include impactful literature like The Color of Law (Rothstein) and Savage Inequalities (Kozol), as well as The New York Times 1619 Project.
Q: Several members of the City of Waco leadership team, as well as the full City Council have attended race equity trainings. Has this helped the race equity conversation within the City?
A: I am proud to say that we have 24 members of our leadership team, as well as the full City Council, that have attended race equity training. In the past 18 months, the Waco City Council established this goal for our City organization: equity in all we do. This means that we, as a municipal governmental entity, as an employer, and as individuals, will continue listening to and engaging in these important conversations surrounding race relations and equity. Certainly, the trainings allowed us to share information and a common language that enabled us to push this work forward.
Q: Can you share some examples of how this work looks for the City?
A: The most recent example of the Council’s commitment to equity and the staff’s innovative approach occurred with our COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund. The City and McLennan County made equity a priority consideration for grants and thus far, more than 70% of the grants have gone to minority and / or women owned businesses.
Q: What are some other ways the City is embracing race equity work to strengthen the community?
A: In my first month, I had the opportunity to file the Fiscal Year 2020 – 2021 City Budget, a document that outlines more than $500,000,000 in expenditures on personnel, infrastructure, and service delivery in Waco. I am proud to say the budget included several new programs to improve our City organization’s awareness of equity concerns, as well as improve our relationships with the community.
- Hiring of the City first equity focused position, which will have responsibility to create and implement Equitable Strategies. The City is working on the job description now and will be seeking candidates for the position in the Fall. The position will serve the City Manager’s Office and be a significant advisor to moving equity forward in our organization and in Waco.
- Re-establishment of community policing, which will seek to build positive relationships in neighborhoods and business districts. A total of seven new police positions will be created to re-start this program.
- Re-energizing of neighborhood engagement with the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Engagement and the addition of two full-time positions dedicated to connecting neighborhoods to City services and building relationships. Additionally, the Office will have access to a $100,000 grant fund to support community generated ideas and projects to support their neighborhoods.
Q: You also recently announced a re-organization. Can you share how this will align with the City Council’s Strategic Goals?
A: The primary purpose of the re-organization was to better align our team to meet the goals of the Council. This re-alignment involved the promotion of Deidra Emerson to Deputy City Manager. Deidra is the first African-American to hold this role and will be leading several key departments, as well as the Office of Neighborhood Engagement, Office of Economic Development, Public Health, Development Services, Community Services, and Waco Transit.
Q: We appreciate your commitment to race equity work. Is there anything else you would like to share about the City’s commitment to improving race equity in our community?
A: As we sent City Manager Wiley Stem into retirement a few weeks ago, we remain thankful for his efforts on this topic. As the new City Manager, I will continue to build on this foundation and commit to doing what I can to ensure equity is a part of Waco’s culture. Specifically, I will continue listening to tune my perspective, and understand Waco’s history and work to measure and improve outcomes for all of Waco. I will ensure our leadership team is active in Race Equity Institute Training and other race equity conversations. I will also bring race equity training to our 1,500 employees. Finally, I commit to continuous innovation to support all of Waco.