Log in

At the urging of Velazquez, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission to be retooled


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs have been a hot topic lately in the US. Some believe they are essential for creating a more equitable and just society. However, implementing these programs in the US has been a significant challenge.

And Florida is no exception.

In May of 2023, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to curtail DEI programs in state colleges.

In March of 2024, the University of Florida terminated its DEI positions.

Apopka took a slightly different approach but with limited success.

At its May 4th, 2022  meeting, Commissioner Alexander H. Smith made this request:

"During the election cycle, diversity, inclusion, and equity were topics in each debate," Smith said. "The makeup of our city is very diverse, and it became obvious during the discussions that it's a subject that needs attention. That's why I asked the mayor to appoint a Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Commission and allow each commissioner to appoint one person to the Commission. Its role would be to establish communication, respect, goodwill, understanding, and equity inclusive of all citizens and businesses in Apopka. There are five "P's" I believe will address many of the issues that concern Apopka residents: People, Programs, Projects, Policies, and Partnerships. It's a tall order, but we can accomplish it."

It turned out to be a very tall order.

Many organizations implement DEI programs without fully understanding the issues or the best approaches for addressing them. This can lead to superficial or ineffective initiatives that do not create real change. Apopka fell into this trap.

The City created a DEI committee but then relegated it to sponsoring events that were, in some cases, already scheduled.

Another obstacle to effectively implementing a DEI program is a lack of understanding and awareness of DEI issues. Many people are resistant to change and do not see the value in promoting diversity and inclusion. Lack of support from leadership and management can also play a role. DEI initiatives require buy-in and support from those in power to be successful. Without that support, these programs may be seen as optional or not a priority. 

Seeing these issues taking hold of the committee, Commissioner Diane Velazquez, at the May 1st City Council meeting, called for the DEI Committee to be disbanded and re-started with new leadership, a new agenda, and new members. Later, on her Commissioner's Facebook page, she clarified those remarks.

"At the last (City) Council meeting, during the Commissioner’s Report, I made reference to the Apopka DEI Committee, recommending (using the word) ‘DISBAND’ the DEI Committee. I received feedback asking for clarity; there were residents present at the council meeting and others tuning in via ‘Live’ YouTube, interpreting my recommendation as dismissing the DEI altogether and its mission. That was NOT my intent. I am writing this post for clarity. I was referencing the DEI Committee representing our City of Apopka. Respectfully, I asked the Mayor for our commission to REVAMP and appoint new members to Apopka’s DEI Committee. Some of the members of the current board have dropped out and have expressed they are no longer interested in being a part of the committee. The Apopka DEI Committee was not operating in its intended mission. The members expressed they are working as event planners. The interim Chief Administrator (Chuck Vavrek) responded to the discussion, saying he would propose a resolution to address the purpose and appointment(s) of the DEI Committee for the council’s review and approval. It will be publicly noticed for residents interested in becoming a member of the DEI Committee."

The next City Council meeting is May 15th at City Hall chambers.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, DEI, Apopka City Council, Commissioner Diane Velazquez, Commissioner Alexander H. Smith, How can I get involved in Apopka's DEI Commission?


1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Nodcenter

    Unfortunately many DEI committees believe DEI is about race, or ethnicity. It also includes those with disabilities, and beliefs systems. To often DEI committees focus on Diversity and forget about Equity, and Inclusion reducing it to just another affirmative action program. A good DEI committee is going to review ADA standards on all City owned facilities, Are certain religions excluded from events? They don't need to plan events, they need to make sure the events are DEI compliant.

    Monday, May 6 Report this