The Knope of the Week recognizes sustained excellence in local government. It’s the Heisman Trophy, Noble Peace Prize, James Beard Award all rolled into one. Many have vied for the honor over the years, but only a few winners have emerged. President Obama, Bono, and Cam Newton — none of them can list Knope of the Week recipient on their resume.
1…2…3…4…5…That’s the number of articles that Christian Williams, City of Goodyear, AZ, wrote about growing up and succeeding as a black man in America. In the series, Christian is brutally honest about the influence of pop culture, the pressures to “dress and sound black”, and how local government can create a culture of inclusion.
Christian’s series has been instrumental in advancing the ELGL conversation on diversity and inclusion. The series has spurred other ELGL members (black and white) to share their experience and suggest ideas for creating a workforce that is more reflective of community demographics.
Part V: Organizational Diversity Is Deeper than Race
Part IV: Countering the Ignorance of Racism
Part II: “No Blacks are Allowed at My Birthday Party”
Part I: The Influence of Pop Culture on Racial Identity
Word on the Street
Stacy Schweikhart, City of Kettering, OH
Christian’s series did more to advance the honest conversation about race and diversity in local government than all other events to date combined. By being brave enough to share his experiences, and because ELGL gave him the safe forum to do so, Christian made the challenge of racial disparity real for all of us. His series has changed the way I will perceive diversity in local government, but more importantly heightened my focus on doing my part to end racism where it too often begins – in our own homes, with our own children and families.
Emily Leuning, ELGL Public Affairs Manager
Thanks Christian for writing this great series of columns! I hope this is just the beginning of a broader conversation about how we can foster the kind of organizational culture you wrote about in your last column – thank you, thank you, thank you!
Sarah Hazel, City of Charlotte, NC
Christian’s series has added a beautiful, powerful voice to the conversation about race in local government, our communities, and our society. I appreciate how much he has opened up, and in turn it makes me want to be more vulnerable, and answer his call to engage in more deliberate conversation about racism embedded in our culture. (I too was a COPS fan..and never once stopped to think about the messages I was receiving in that show…until his article.) Christian, thank you for encouraging us all to talk about race, to have real dialogue about people’s diverse experiences, even when it is damn uncomfortable! Some of Christian’s words from his last piece sum up what I find so inspiring about his writing. It is purposeful, and actionable. “Without sharing, we are left with only our assumptions of others. Without sharing, we can’t have a deeper dialogue and come up with creative solutions.” Tip of the hat to you Christian, a much deserved Knope of the Week winner!
Patrick Rollens, City of Corvallis, OR
I salute Christian’s courageous, highly personal article series. He should be a model for everyone who wants to shine a light on inequality and adversity through honest dialogue and self reflection. Local government needs more thought leaders like him to prepare our cities for the future.
Ben McCready, Town of Normal, IL
I can think of few so deserving of the Knope of Week recognition than Christian Williams. Christian’s willingness to share honest thoughts and personal experiences related to the most controversial of topics is something that stands out. Not one to shy away from challenge, Christian has authored an ongoing series where he guides a meaningful discussion on race. I’m proud to join my ELGL colleagues in recognizing Christian Williams as a dedicated professional and leader in the effort to build a diverse local government workforce.
Kent Wyatt, City of Tigard, OR
‘Make them uncomfortable’ – this was Christian’s advice before a panel discussion on race about the CPBB Conference. This advice led to a better discussion about diversity and inclusion, and it’s a mantra that ELGL has embraced in discussions about underrepresented groups – veterans, females, racial minorities.
Harrison Wicks, City of Kent, OH
Christian’s five-part series is a valuable addition to the discussion on race in our society, workplaces, and local government organizations. I am very grateful that he was able to share his personal experiences and allowed for a deeper understanding of race and race relations. I agree with Christian’s assertion that culture is a driving force in generating a more diverse workforce and should not be another ‘Because that’s the way it is’ mantra that seems to be a general motif of government.
It is motivating for me to see someone discuss this issue, especially with personal experiences, feelings, and perceptions, and is one of the many reasons I enjoy ELGL. I wish Christian the best at the City of Goodyear and I hope to read more of his articles in the future.
Pam Weir, City of Sierra Vista, AZ
Christian’s series on race and diversity in local government provided a voice that often gets forgotten or silenced. He showed awesome courage in sharing his experiences on such a public platform, and provided us all with an opportunity to reflect on how we contribute to the inclusive culture (or lack thereof) of our own local government organizations. I am personally thrilled that I will start working with him in Goodyear next month!
Bridget Doyle, City of Sterling Heights, MI
ELGL prides itself on leading the conversation on inclusion and race in local government and Christian Williams is helping our organization do just that. He clearly has a passion for local government that he’s using to speak out and better the future for all in our industry. Embracing diversity is the key to future success for local government organizations; City Halls from around the country should tune in to voices like Christian’s. I am proud to belong in an organization that champions diversity and fresh perspectives.
Rebecca Olson, City of Shoreview, MN
After reading Christian’s series, I thought the experiences he shared were great examples of racial awareness. I applaud Christian for confronting others’ biases as he did by asking the playmate why they stopped playing with him. By asking why, and interrupting those thought patterns, we can each confront our own biases and begin to shape a colorful tapestry within our communities that measures wealth not in color or monetary terms but rather in human worth.
Kirsten Wyatt, City of West Linn, OR
Bravo to Christian for receiving the coveted Knope. I first met Christian two years ago at a conference, and I my first impression was that he was a quick Twitter user and a prolific selfie taker. But there’s so much more to him than that: over time, his contributions to the ELGL discussions on race and gender diversity in local government leadership have shown that Christian is the type of public servant we should all strive to be. He doesn’t just talk about things – he takes action. He doesn’t just wonder what’s possible, he asks the tough questions. He doesn’t just make promises – he follows through, and creates learning opportunities that benefit the ELGL organization and local government as a whole. I’m proud to be an ELGL member alongside Christian. Congrats on your Knope!