From the County Manager Column from May 25, 2021

George Floyd, one year later; return to workspaces survey; Memorial Day

I hope your week is off to a good start. There are three things that I’d like to ask for a few minutes of your time on this week.

George Floyd

It was one year ago today that George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. Events are scheduled throughout the Twin Cities and across the nation – and world - this week in remembrance. In our organization, Board Chair Carter recognized this day by observing a moment of silence at the board meeting this morning. This week, we also conclude the current series of Community Healing Circles to support health and wellness in our community and organization with a virtual event for residents this afternoon and one for employees on Thursday, May 27.

This period last year was the low point for many of us in a year full of low moments. The pain, the hurt, the ugliness, the frustration, the desire for a better present and future – all of it was viscerally present while a virus about which we still knew so little was picking up pace across our communities and invisibly spreading in ways we did not fully understand. Going back and reading or watching the words of the county board, the words I worked to express to the organization, or the words you may have shared with others in your sphere provide reminders of what we felt a year ago. As each of us across our organization processes this date and the related events of the past year in our own way, this week we extend space and grace to our colleagues as we and they take time to reflect. Many things have changed in the space of this year, but just as many things have clearly not. Revisiting one part of my message from last year at this time –

What happened in Minneapolis… cannot be viewed as someone else’s problem. So let’s be clear - racism is a Ramsey County problem. Disparate treatment of those with Black and brown skin is a Minnesota problem. Denial of these issues or acting like we cannot change them is a United States of America problem. These are collective problems that harm us all.

The events of May 25, 2020 and those that have followed have changed us and they have brought forward a new urgency in our work that should have been there all along. Here in Ramsey County, we must work to demonstrate our commitment to racial equity through our work every day, as we also recognize that we still have a long way to go in reforming our systems to realize our inclusive county vision of a place where all are valued and thrive. Words matter, but left removed from actions they come off as hollow and weak.

Employee survey: Returning to our workspaces

It is difficult to transition to other topics, but it is important that I ask for your input as we work to think about the future of work, and more flexible options associated with our work, starting this Labor Day. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, we are engaging with and listening to employees at all levels across our diverse organization as we develop our Flexible Work Policy. In addition to a schedule of focus groups and other engagements throughout these coming weeks, today we are launching an all-employee survey that will be available on RamseyNet through Friday, June 18.

Learn more and take the survey

Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes to complete the survey and share your thoughts about your work situation and a flexible workplace policy. Because the type of work we do across the county can vary greatly from area to area, broad participation in the survey is especially important. We want to capture what has worked well over the last year and to identify areas where we can adapt and improve with a post-pandemic policy. Your input and ideas are very much appreciated as we continue to develop policies to support Ramsey County employees and being a leading employer of choice.

Memorial Day

Next Monday is Memorial Day – a day we observe across the nation in remembrance and honor of those who have given their lives in service of our country. Many events are planned throughout the Twin Cities including a virtual and broadcast event hosted by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

Memorial Hall and the Vision of Peace statue are located at the center of the Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse building – our county seat. For those who have visited, it is a humbling and contemplative experience spending time in this building in the presence of the names of fallen Ramsey County service members. About two years ago, I was honored to attend a ceremony of remembrance associated with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I sat next to a mother and father who were there to remember their son who had lost his life overseas, and it was a moment I will never forget. Although visitation to the building has been limited during COVID-19, our open data portal features a story with the names of those inscribed in Memorial Hall as well as other service records. I encourage you to give it a look if you can spare a few moments.

As we look ahead to Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer and a time many gather with family and friends, we are also reminded of loss, service and sacrifice. I thank you again for all you have done throughout this year in service of our organization and community remembering that we’re all in this together.

Thank you for taking time to look back together, chart a future path together and come to work together every day.