By Tracy DeFore, County of San Diego Communications Office
SAN DIEGO–A new director of the Office of Equity and Racial Justice has been named after a thorough national recruitment and selection process.
Andrew Strong will head the office and brings 15 years of experience in local government leadership and community engagement.
“Andrew is a respected member of the community in San Diego County. Hiring Andrew to be leader of our new Office of Equity and Racial Justice was a decision made after a thorough process that involved the community in the final decision,” said Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “I fully support the decision of our community and look forward to working with Andrew to make San Diego County an equitable, inclusive and just place for all San Diegans.”
The Office of Equity and Racial Justice was established by the Board in June to identify systemic bias within the County organization. More than 20 community groups were invited to participate in the director’s selection process, and 12 ultimately chose to be involved, including representatives from the API Initiative, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance and Universidad Popular.
“It has been a pleasure to join other community leaders and be a part of supporting the County of San Diego in this rigorous and innovative interview process,” said Dr. Steven Jones. “As CEO of JONES, a diversity and leadership development consulting firm, we were honored to lend our 30 years of experience helping organizations locally, nationally, and globally further diversity, equity, anti-racism, inclusion and belonging to assist this process.”
The initial review panel was made up of three community members who narrowed the pool of almost 200 applicants to the 10 most qualified candidates. Seven candidates were invited to interview with the three community panel members and two local subject matter experts in the areas of equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice. This group recommended three finalists. Those finalists met with a cross-representational panel of community stakeholders as well as County executives to determine the final selection.
“This is an exciting moment for the County of San Diego to appoint the first Director of the Office of Equity and Racial Justice. It is our sincere hope that barriers will be broken and gaps filled with programs, staff and a budget to move forward in historically underserved and underrepresented communities across the entire County. I am honored to have served on a diverse interview selection panel that included community stakeholders to ensure representation and awareness of community’s interest to ensure the success of this office,” said JoAnn Fields, Government and Public Relations Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Initiative.
Strong brings a diverse background to the position. He spent nine years in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman before settling in San Diego. He joined the County of San Diego in the Human Resources Department and quickly earned promotions into key leadership positions, including the Chief of Staff of the Chief Administrative Office, which implements the policy directives of the Board of Supervisors and manages the day-to-day operations of the County. In this role, he’s worked with the community and County leaders to develop and implement strategies to address inequities, disparities, and disproportionality in our most underserved communities. He’s worked to build and strengthen relationships between the County of San Diego and community partners. Strong also supports the County’s Human Relations Commission and has a passion for making government leadership reflective of all people we serve.
“I’m honored to be selected for this position and humbled by the process by which my selection was made. Time for talk has long passed, and time for action is now. It’s time to work with our community to reimagine and change County government through the lens of equity and justice in all we do,” said Strong. “I’m excited to have an opportunity to dedicate my time and energy to build greater trust with the community and work with them to create enduring systemic change, root out systemic racism and create equity in all we do.”
Members of the public can help shape the mission statement, roles, and responsibilities of the Office of Equity and Racial Justice. They are currently being developed in coordination with community members, the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkley, UPD Consulting, and the San Diego County Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission, which was revived by the Board of Supervisors last year to promote respect and integrity for all individuals. Two meetings have already taken place, and four additional focus group gatherings will be scheduled. The County will also soon begin recruiting for two additional positions to support the Office of Equity and Racial Justice.