ITHACA, N.Y. –– Tompkins County has announced that they’re bringing on former Wichita State University Director of Operations Deanna Carrithers to serve as the county’s first Chief Equity and Diversity Officer.
As Tompkins County’s first appointed Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, Carrithers will, “lead the County’s strategy to be a diverse, anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive organization with the support of its senior leadership and interdepartmental justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion teams.”
Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, Carrithers has a background in public administration and educational leadership. She has an undergraduate and masters degree from WSU and is currently pursuing a PhD there –– her final dissertation she’s writing now is about, “public-private partnerships in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Carrithers says her combination of education and work experience makes her the best fit to take on this new position.
“All of those areas have led me to begin looking at systems and looking at diversity and inclusion from a holistic perspective –– specifically thinking about how services are delivered…whether it’s transportation, whether it’s child care, whether it’s inequality in terms of wages,” she said.
According to the official job listing the Chief Equity and Diversity Officer is in charge of gathering data on inequality in Tompkins and providing guidance to department heads, management and elected officials on equity and social justice issues affecting county programs and practices based on their research and analysis amongst other things.
“Deanna is a proven leader in diversity and equity and will bring an exemplary track record of management and community engagement experience to our team,” Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino said. “Over the past 13 years, she has served with distinction in leadership roles in local government, the nonprofit sector, and the higher education community. Her enthusiasm was palpable throughout the interview process, and we’re excited for her to be a part of our community and our work at the County.”
The county realized their need for the Chief Equity and Diversity Officer position after sending out a workplace climate survey process to all county employees last year. However, the search for a candidate was put on hold as part of an organization-wide hiring freeze due to COVID-19 back in May.
“The vision for the Chief Equity and Diversity Officer truly came from our employees. After spending months looking at our strengths, challenges, and opportunities, as well as researching ways to further develop our organization, our employees recommended to the Legislature the creation of this position,” Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix said. “To welcome the energy and enthusiasm of Deanna at the helm of our justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work is truly an exciting time for Tompkins County.”
Carrithers’ hiring coincides with renewed interest by local government in social justice as protests continue over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In June the county announced a new Equity & Anti-Racism Strategy of which this job is a part.
“At a time in our Country’s history when attention to diversity, equity and inclusion is paramount, seeing this position come to fruition is an incredible milestone for Tompkins County,” Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature said. “The entire Legislature and I are ecstatic that we will have a member of the County’s leadership team focused on equity for the organization as an employer and a service provider. Deanna will have our support in this work, and we are looking forward to the impacts that she will make for our community.”
Carrithers begins her new role at the county in early September.
In anticipation of her work with Tompkins County, she said, “advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion has never been more important to building vibrant and sustainable communities. I am honored to join a community of public servants who believe in equity, diversity, and inclusion as uncompromised values. I look forward to strengthening partnerships with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and educational institutions to promote equal opportunity as we create social and economic opportunities for all citizens.”