In October, the Washington County Board of Commissioners took the bold step of prioritizing the work of the REC by supporting it with a $250,000 grant! The Collaborative will use these funds to solidify its plans to strengthen the county’s communities of color.

Washington County flourishes like no other region in the state as a place to live, work, worship, and play because of its commitment to equity and racial justice as demonstrated by the presence, power and influence of its communities of color.

Increase the level of engagement and impact of people of color in the education, business, and public sectors for the benefit of the entire Washington County community.

The REC has identified three primary strategies to accomplish this goal, each of which depends upon
long-term investment from partners who recognize the benefits to Washington County.

1) Develop and strengthen the capacity of culturally-specific nonprofits and allied partners that work to empower communities of color;
2) Establish a foundation that supports the civic, economic, and cultural infrastructure for Washington County’s communities of color; and
3) Increase collaboration between communities of color and existing bodies of leadership across
sectors including government, business, and education.

The REC is actively engaged in Washington County’s public process to move the needle toward equity and justice for communities of color. In the very early stages of COVID-19, the REC compiled its top-tier recommendations for Washington County’s Board of Commissioners (BOC), calling for emergency measures across housing, small business, and service sectors, including funding mechanisms, communication protocols, and prioritization of the 2020 census.

Soon after, when county staff presented a modified budget that threatened to defer the full staffing of its newly created Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement, the REC rapidly responded with a letter that urged the county to instead reaffirm its full investment, especially in light of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color. The REC also commented on the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund which resulted in a conversation with Chair Harrington on the prioritization of communities of color.

In its Mid-Year Report, the REC updated the BOC on its accomplishments as a Collaborative, and as part of its commitment to provide ongoing guidance inspired by the Leading With Race – Executive Summary report, the report posed important questions and made key recommendations for the BOC’s consideration.

The REC also communicated its distress in a letter to the BOC over a traumatic event that occurred in Washington County’s jail, a story that would come to light nearly two years later in an unauthorized release of video footage.

Lastly, the REC submitted comments on the Long Range Planning Work Program that advocated for more equitable housing, community-based development, and a broader, climate-friendly scope in future policies, planning, and decision-making.

Want to learn more about the REC or inquire about membership? Contact VAN for more info.