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Walz adds inclusion officer to expand government diversity

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, left, introduces the state's new inclusion manager, Chris Taylor, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - Chris Taylor says he will advocate for minorities and others Minnesota state government does not always treat equally.

It may be an American Indian applying for a state job or a black-owned company seeking a state contract.

State officials often think about “who do I feel most comfortable with,” Taylor said, instead of picking the best person for the job.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday, April 23, that Taylor would be the state’s inclusion officer, looking both at internal agency changes and external issues such as hiring. Taylor also will oversee the state’s new One Minnesota Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said they want to make inclusion a part of state government’s consciousness, not just something they are doing because it looks good.

Gov. Mark Dayton had a similar position in his administration the past eight years, but Walz said Taylor will serve as an assistant Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner, a position that more likely will survive in a new administration than Dayton’s set-up of having the officer part of his office.

Taylor will go beyond just working with traditional minorities, Flanagan said in an interview.

“It is critically important that we do outreach all around the state,” she said, so state government is not Twin Cities-dominated.

She said she and Walz have traveled the state since being sworn in the first of the year and try to include rural residents -- whites and minorities alike -- when they appoint state officials.

And, she said, since people in greater Minnesota cannot always get to St. Paul, the administration must reach out to them.

Taylor has been the Minnesota Historical Society inclusion officer for nearly 14 years.

He said that Minnesota already is ahead of other states in having a diverse workforce, but there are things he can do to improve the situation.

Agencies may not have a culture that invites diversity, Taylor said. “We need to question those, not for the sake of change but to see if they are serving the demographics Minnesota has now.”