Montgomery County has appointed Donna Richemond as its new chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This new role was created with the intent of helping to make Montco a more inclusive and equitable working environment for county employees.
In a statement welcoming the new hire, Dr. Val Arkoosh, the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, expressed great confidence in Richemond’s experience and ability to get the job done.
“We are committed to fostering a workplace that rejects bias and discrimination, and in which every employee feels welcome and empowered to serve the residents of Montgomery County,” Arkoosh said.
Richemond has worked in higher education for more than 20 years, both as a consultant and in leadership roles at various colleges. She started off her career in higher education as a counselor, academic advisor, and adjunct professor at Montgomery County Community College’s Blue Bell Campus.
She later served as the college’s associate dean for student affairs and enrollment in Pottstown. Afterwards, Richemond worked as a chief officer and executive director of the CommUniverCity at Lynn Campus at North Shore Community College in Massachusetts. Eventually, she graduated to the role of vice president for student and enrollment services there.
In an interview with WHYY News, Richemond said that learning institutions were the perfect place to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, because it was important to help bring students from diverse backgrounds into the fold, retain them, and ultimately help them be successful.
“All throughout my career, I have interspersed diversity, equity and inclusion, because it’s been a passion of mine,” Richemond said.
In her most recent job as a consultant, she has helped workplaces and organizations with their own diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
That’s when she discovered that Montgomery County was looking for someone with her expertise.
“[Montgomery County was] looking for somebody to come in who was passionate — who believed in diversity, equity and inclusion and what it could do to support an organization and a community. And I just realized that they were also very interested in moving these ideals along within their organization, and committed: very, very committed from the top of the organization down. And so I wanted to be part of an organization that had committed itself to seeing real change,” Richemond said.
So, what’s the first thing Richemond plans to do in her role?
“As a person who is working in the area of diversity, equity inclusion, it’s important to not walk into an organization and just make assumptions. That would be the worst thing. And so it’s really important to, to listen to what people have to say, to listen to their experiences, whether they’re positive or negative, listen to the things that they want to celebrate, but also the things that they want to see change,” Richemond said.
Richemond will also be diving into the county’s data to see where equity gaps exist. She wants to know all of the details like the ratio of female employees to male employees, promotion data, and how the county can provide better employment opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities.
Using that data and the information that she gathered through listening to county employees, she hopes to come up with a strategic plan for the county to move forward.
Richemond is excited to be the inaugural choice for this position.
“I really look forward to partnering not only with the county, but also with community leaders to ensure that equity is a critical lens through which we will assess all of our systems, processes, and services, so that everyone has an opportunity to achieve success, to experience inclusion within your organization, and within the county. And to know, most importantly, that they belong,” Richemond said.
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