Mayor Rusty Paul has formed a Sandy Springs Diversity and Inclusion Task Force with a goal of suggesting ways to improve inclusion in city government and the community following Black Lives Matters protests that occurred in the city last summer.

Paul named the 10 people he appointed during the Feb. 2 City Council meeting and asked City Council for their comments and suggestions.

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Black Lives Matter protesters took to the sidewalks outside City Springs, home to City Hall, in June. Civic groups such as Los Niños Primero, a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit serving low-income Latino families, offered support to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The city responded by organizing discussions that started last summer and included dozens of virtual meetings. One of the suggestions made by city residents was the creation of a panel directed to improve diversity and inclusion in the city and within City Hall.

“Since this past summer with the events in our own community within the city of Atlanta as well as Minneapolis, it’s refocused our attention on the diversity of our community and our communities and our country,” Paul said.

Paul is giving the task force six months to bring recommendations to the council, with interim reports and a final report. He acknowledged the pandemic may cause difficulties, but he’s asking them to interact with the community to get input.

Task Force Members must be residents of the city or work within the city limits, a news release on the task force formation said. They are appointed to two-year terms. Meetings and their agendas will be posted on the city’s calendar, in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act. Members of a task force can be appointed by the mayor without approval by the council, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.

“In the end, they’ll provide us with a report on things that we can do,” Paul said. “But their task is more than just city policy. This is a broader issue than just what the city government itself can do. How do we connect these people to the larger community is actually the primary task. And part of that is getting more inclusive within the city government, but we can’t just stop there.”

The final report will offer suggestions on not just what city government can do to promote inclusion, but also what the community at large can do, Paul said.

Members of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force include:

Jim Bostic Jr., managing director of HEP & Associates, serving as the task force chairman, the news release said. Paul said Bostic has served on boards of Metropolitan Atlanta schools, his alma mater, Clemson University, Tuskegee University, the Georgia Board of Education, and as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowship. White House Fellows are emerging leaders who typically spend a year working as full-time, paid Fellows to senior White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials, the White House website said.

Desmond X. Curry, a billing specialist with Rubin Lublin, a boutique real estate law firm in Georgia,Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. “I thought it was very important that we get some younger voices to this table, and Mr. Curry represents that,” Paul said.

Raquel Gonzalez, Sandy Springs city clerk. “She’s truly an international person, born in Japan, lived in Panama and in various communities growing up in a military family,” he said.

Rabbi Joshua Geller, rabbi of Congregation B’nai Torah since 2004. “Rabbi Heller is a tremendous leader in our community and a highly respected member of the clergy,” Paul said. “I think he’ll bring the right kind of temperament background and experience that will help us through this.”

Nicole Morris, a professor at Emory University School of Law. Morris was awarded Professor of the Year by the Emory Black Law Students Association in 2018, Paul said. She earned a BS in chemical engineering from Northwestern, a master’s in chemistry from the University of Michigan, and a juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School. “So she’s got a tremendous background and I think brings a lot of experience and knowledge to this process,” he said.

Rev. Bill Murray, rector of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church. He is “a member of the clergy who is very adept at bringing people together, bringing people very wide diverse opinions and thoughts and keeping them together and working toward common goals,” Paul said.

Sgt. Salvador Ortega, public information officer for the Sandy Springs Police Department. Born in Baja California in the northern part of Mexico, Ortega lived on a chicken ranch in Campo California, Paul said. “He’s a highly respected member of our community and of our police department. And one of the real challenges in this conversation is building trust with our law enforcement. And so having him on there I think is very important,” he said.

Jose Osorio, assistant principal at Lake Forest Elementary School. “He’s very well connected in the Sandy Springs Hispanic community and has the trust of the families, which is very, very important to bring them into this dialogue,” Paul said.

Olivia Rocamora, Spanish Department chair and Spanish Immersion program coordinator at The Weber School, according to the school’s website. Paul said she is another person with a significant connection and trust with the city’s Hispanic community. She joined the Los Niños Primero board in 2018. The nonprofit organization prepares underserved Latino pre-school children for educational success. She is writing a book on her family’s immigration from Spain to Cuba and from Cuba to the United States, the release said. 

Clarissa Sparks, founder and brand strategist for Sparks + Company. Her company is described as a branding agency empowering women. She serves as an instructor for the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship through Cornell University’s eCornell program, Paul said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.