Peoria’s first Chief of Diversity and Inclusion Officer is resigning

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After serving for two years, the city of Peoria’s first Chief of Diversity and Inclusion Officer is resigning.

Dr. Farris Muhammed’s job ranged from checking the city’s employee morale, investigating business and housing discrimination, overseeing the Peoria core division, and serving as an equal opportunity officer. Muhammed says he wore many hats.

“It’s about being spread very thin, but still making sure I am trying to be as effective as possible,” Muhammad said.

His role was created with the help of Peoria’s NAACP chapter with the intent to improve the city’s equity and equal employment opportunities.

It was a direct response to Peoria being named one of the worse places for African Americans to live for three consecutive years.

NAACP’s president Pastor Marvin Hightower believes two years isn’t enough to break the racial equity and inclusion barriers between minorities and city officials.

“Whoever gets hired next must be the chief diversity and inclusion officer not just in name only. Because diversity and inclusion must work together. In other words, they must have a voice at the table,” Hightower said.

Dr. Muhammad says he could have done more if he had the staff. In other communities that are about the same size as Peoria, Dr. Muhammad said they have at least four employees working in the Diversity Department, but in Peoria, there is only one.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said being understaffed is an issue that affects more than the Diversity Department.

“Our staffing is at the lowest level it’s ever been at in 25 years and I think that is something we need to recognize,” Urich said.

Dr. Muhammad says he’s continuing his work as the first director of equity and inclusion for the city of Lawrence in Kansas. Dr. Muhammed’s last day is Nov. 6.

Peoria’s city manager says with it already being the end of the year, oupled with current city hall budget cuts, he doesn’t expect to have the position filled in the next few months. A job posting will be listed early next year

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