By Philip Reed
In late 2020, during the Listen-In portion of the Senior Team Meeting, Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel took the opportunity to debut WAPA’s Senior Statement on Race and Social Justice.
Listen-In is a program that offers WAPA employees the opportunity to “listen in” to the first 60 minutes of senior team meetings. It also provides senior managers an opportunity to bring issues and developments to the attention of employees tuning in throughout WAPA’s 15-state footprint.
In this case, that opportunity was used to discuss the Senior Statement on Race and Social Justice. The Senior Statement on Race and Social Justice is a pledge to employees that the Senior Leadership Team is committed to “tackling critical issues surrounding racial and social justice.”
The statement is intended to formalize the organization’s commitment to ensuring that all employees receive the same respect, treatment and opportunity. “In my Juneteenth email to WAPA employees, I committed to having difficult conversations and taking action to promote racial equality and advance social justice in WAPA,” Gabriel explained. “This is especially important as we continue to see disturbing events across our nation. As part of my commitment, the Senior Leadership Team and I have signed a statement on racial and social justice, declaring that all people are welcome at WAPA and that we will tackle critical issues surrounding racial equity and social justice.”
Power Marketing Advisor Rodney Bailey and Senior Vice President and Desert Southwest Regional Manager Tracey LeBeau, who serve as senior sponsors for the Inclusion and Diversity Committee, helped develop the statement.
“On their first day, every federal employee takes the oath of office to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, including those that enshrine civil rights and the dignity of all people,” said Gabriel. “Proactively combatting racial and social inequity is all of our responsibility as federal employees and Americans.”
When introducing the statement, which has been signed by each member of the senior team, Gabriel thanked the members of the IDC for their work on these important issues and promised employees the team would establish and review metrics to ensure they are succeeding in their promise. Members of the senior team chimed in to voice their personal commitment.
“We need to find ways to deal with tough issues like this and improve our organization even more,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Howard. “We will make it an even stronger organization moving forward.”
“What I really like about this statement is that it is very action oriented,” LeBeau said. “People are looking forward to seeing some action. Not just out of us, but out of each other.”
“In my heart I believe that most people are really good and may offend simply because of a lack of understanding,” said Bailey. “I hope as an organization that we can go into the discussions with that in mind.”
“I think this topic of social justice can be a topic that creates a lot of feelings, but I feel as a senior team we definitely have to attack this problem,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mike Montoya. “I think all of us have unconscious bias, and we can learn a lot just by being open minded.”
“Just being safe is not enough,” said Senior Vice President and Sierra Nevada Regional Manager Sonja Anderson. “I appreciate that the seniors have gone forward with this effort and this discussion. I’m looking forward to making it a better place at WAPA for all of us.”
“We want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable working here,” said Acting Senior Vice President and Upper Great Plains Regional Manager Lloyd Linke. “That is something we really want to be able to do. There is work to be done, and I support that.”
Senior Vice President and General Counsel John Bremer also weighed in with support from a legal perspective, and Michael Peterson, attending the Listen-In in advance of assuming the role of senior vice president and chief financial officer in August, spoke up as well. “One of the best things you can do for individuals is providing the same opportunity to all individuals across society,” Peterson said.
“There is much work to be done on increasing racial equity and social justice at WAPA and, by extension, our communities and our nation,” concluded Gabriel. “I am confident that the outstanding people of WAPA will rise to the challenge, as you always do, and exceed our expectations to create a bright, inclusive, diverse and safe WAPA for all.”
Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist.
Last modified on September 12th, 2023