City receives award for diversity initiative, advisory board appointed

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 21, 2016
Shannan Miller (top right) visits with different tables during the Community Action Planning Cafe Conversation. File photo: Jonathan Phillips

Shannan Miller (top right) visits with different tables during the Community Action Planning Cafe Conversation.
File photo: Jonathan Phillips

Decatur’s efforts to increase diversity in the city are receiving national recognition.

Those efforts continue. The city recently appointed its Better Together Advisory Board, a group that will advise the City Commission going forward.

The creation of the board is one of the action steps that came out of a process of creating a community action plan to make the city more diverse and inclusive.


The plan cost $109,000 and was almost two years in the making, sparked by allegations of racial profiling by police officers that were raised back in January of 2014. Former School Board member Don Denard said he had been profiled, and other black residents and visitors soon came forward with stories of their own experiences with police officers. That discussion was broadened to include a conversation about all forms of diversity in the city. Decatur hired the Art of Community to facilitate the discussion.

The plan was accepted in December by the City Commission. Establishing an advisory board was one of the things recommended for immediate action by commissioners.

For its efforts, Decatur won two awards from the City-County Communications & Marketing Association for its Better Together initiative, according to a press release.

“Decatur won a Savvy (1st place) for Community Visioning and an Award of Excellence (3rd place) for Citizen Engagement,” the press release says. “Judges noted that the effort was impressive for a community of any size – a well developed and executed process from start to finish that resulted in a very comprehensive action plan.”

The following people have been selected to serve on the Better Together Advisory Board:

Board Members

Shadi Abdalla

Christy Amador*

Haqiqa Bolling

Erin Braden

Syreeta Campbell

Paula Collins

Yvonne Druyeh Dodd

David T. Lewicki

Lauren Suddeall Lucas

Cindy Popp

Jamilah Rashid

Sara Shay Sullivan*

Shenandra Usher

Senior Advisors

Jon Abercrombie

Casie Yoder

Staff Liaisons:

Olivia Burrell-Jackson

Lartesha Chaney

Linda Harris

Renae Madison


Christy Amador

Sara Shay Sullivan

Linda Harris, Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development, said the board will be asked to:

1) Assist city staff with public education and outreach activities that promote equity, inclusion and engagement.

2)  Support established programs and organizations in the community working to promote a more just, welcoming, inclusive, equitable and compassionate city.

3) Provide recommendations regarding the implementation of the Better Together Community Action Plan.

4) Assist with identifying and providing training and resources to educate community members about respectful, meaningful conversations across differences.

5) Assist city staff with regularly updating the community resource list (asset map).

6) Assist in the development of a strategic, integrated outreach plan in order to involve a broad spectrum of community members in city life.

7) Provide recommendations in all subject areas of equity, inclusion, and engagement.

8) Provide recommendations for internal program evaluation and reporting and assist city staff in periodically reporting to the City Commission on program effectiveness.


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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