GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County has hired an inclusion officer whose job it will be to encourage diversity and equity within the county administration and its programs for residents.
Teresa Branson will get to work as chief inclusion officer May 24.
“It is an honor to be selected as the first person filling this role at Kent County,” Branson said in a Thursday statement. “I look forward to working with our leadership teams, employees and community partners to build on the work that has already been done and to implement meaningful change that will make County government more responsive in meeting the diverse needs of our employees and community.”
Branson has a bachelor’s degree in public health education and master’s degree in health administration. She currently works as the Kent County Health Department deputy administrative health officer.
“Over at the health department, I focused a lot of my work on health equity and social justice and I really want to ensure from an equity perspective and health lens perspective that those are some of the very initiatives I can continue to do but kind of scale them up around the county,” Branson told News 8 in a Zoom call.
She also serves on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force.
“There’s a lot of important issues in our community that the county and myself will be tackling,” Branson said. “Throughout this pandemic that we’re also in, we’ve learned a lot of things: how we can best engage with the community, how we can make sure we’re lifting community voice, how we can make sure community is at the table in many of those decision-making processes.”
The county said Branson’s new role demonstrates its “commitment to fully embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in its strategic priorities.”
“We are fortunate to have someone as qualified as Teresa serve as our first Chief Inclusion Officer,” Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt stated. “We elevated this role because we are committed to accelerating our efforts to be an inclusive workforce and to ensure we are being equitable in our service delivery. I am excited for Teresa to fulfill this role and help us expand our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.”
—News 8’s Whitney Burney contributed to this report.