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Race and Equity

Race and Equity

In January 2020, Douglas County became a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of local, state and regional governments working to advance racial equity and increase opportunities for all. GARE members collaborate and share effective practices to advance policies and practices and develop solutions to racial equity challenges.

Douglas County’s four areas of focus will be:

Douglas County has adopted the GARE Core Beliefs:

Although tensions or anxiety can sometimes be a part of conversations about race, we know it is necessary for us to name race head-on, both in the details of our work and how we work with each other.

People impacted by a decision should be engaged in the decision-making process.

While the institution of racism was created well before our time, we are dealing with both the historical legacy and current reality. Racism and racial inequities have resulted in trauma, both to individuals and to communities. A trauma-informed approach to our work is necessary for our collective humanity.

Transforming our systems towards greater racial equity requires consistent and courageous leadership. We recognize the importance of formal and informal leadership. We support formal leadership working to advance racial equity, as well as the development of emerging leadership.

Our institutions, systems and structures are complex. To transform our institutions and organizational cultures, it is critical that we develop a more nuanced understanding of that complexity. This includes moving beyond only quantitative approaches and incorporating qualitative and experiential ways of knowing.

Racial inequities have been intentionally created and maintained over an extended period of time. They will not disappear on their own. To advance racial equity, we must be organizing within our own institutions and across institutions, always putting community at the center. We believe that a racial equity movement must build and expand the engagement of governmental jurisdictions (and others) across the country.

Because power has so often been used to perpetuate inequities, we recognize that we can sometimes have an awkward relationship with power. We believe in intentionally examining, considering, negotiating and claiming power that advances racial equity.

Creating environments of learning within and between our organizations will help to replicate success, expand learning from each other’s experiences and leverage change. Our network and this movement will benefit from continuous, intentional learning and feedback. In the spirit of continuous learning, we will refine these statements on a routine basis

Members of Douglas County’s GARE leadership team are:

  • Assistant County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur
  • Interim Sustainability Director Kim Criner Ritchie
  • Senior Data Analyst Matt Cravens
  • Human Resources Manager Michelle Spreer
  • Management Analyst Zaynah Afada
  • District Attorney Suzanne Valdez
  • County Treasurer Adam Rains
  • Behavioral Health Projects Director Bob Tryanski
  • District Court Administrator Linda Koester-Vogelsang

If you are interested in learning more about GARE or any of the work of the four focus areas, please contact Jill Jolicoeur at or 785-393-6435.

George Floyd’s death reflects deeply ingrained, long-standing divisions in our society. With rampant acts of violence across the nation, and the spread of misinformation, racial stereotyping and fear, it serves as a reminder that the work towards racial equity has a desperately long way to go.

Overt acts of racism are damaging to everyone in our society, not just people of color. It is also clear that racism is systemic. It is embedded in the decisions people, governments, and organizations make every day - most of the time not even knowing it is there. We all must shine a light on racism when we see it, acknowledge it within ourselves, and commit to changing the systems that perpetuate it. 

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd and all of those who have experienced racism, discrimination and hate. I realize that now - more than ever - is the time for our organization to further our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We must work harder to foster constructive, civil dialogue and actions on issues related to race.

Four years ago, Douglas County hired a Criminal Justice Coordinator to coordinate and facilitate a new Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) in our community to promote health, public safety and an effective, fair and efficient criminal justice system. The CJCC is actively working on the over representation of minorities in the criminal justice system, including a law enforcement contact study. Douglas County also recently joined Government Alliance for Race and Equity (GARE) to connect with a network of local governments committed to advancing racial equity. We have created a small work team, led by Assistant County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur, to guide our efforts for our organization. Jill led a work session with the County Commission launching our work earlier this year. 

We recognize that employees may be experiencing a range of emotions. These resources are available to help:

While I am proud of the work we are doing, we know more needs to be done. Much more. Let’s stand together and continue to fight for racial equity. Thank you all for everything you do for our County!

— County Administrator Sarah Plinsky