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St. Louis County hires first chief diversity officer

St. Louis County's first chief diversity officer is Jack L. Thomas Jr.
St. Louis County

Hiring a chief diversity officer was a key recommendation of the recent disparity study commissioned by St. Louis County.

Jack L. Thomas Jr., a veteran of the workforce diversity and improvement profession, has been tapped to fill the position.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to the process of developing a culture of inclusiveness within St. Louis County government, with the goal of growing sustainable minority- and women-owned business enterprises,” Thomas said in a statement.

Thomas worked from 1999 to 2008 at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where he oversaw the airport’s workforce diversity and business inclusion programs, including minority business certification. After that, Thomas held a similar position at the Municipal Airport Authority in Jackson, Mississippi.

St. Louis County commissioned the disparity study in 2016, with a main objective being to discover if there was a “statistically significant” disparity in how and to whom the county awards contracts.

The study, conducted by the Georgia law firm Griffin & Strong, covers the years 2012 to 2015 and shows that women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses earned a fraction of the more than $800 million in contracts awarded over that period.

For example, three minority-owned and six women-owned businesses received about $250,000 in principal construction contracts. That’s about 4 percent of the number of firms that earned contracts in this category. 

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said the findings “clearly show a need to improve minority participation in county contracts.”

Thomas’ first day on the job is Monday His annual salary will be $120,000.

Holly Edgell is lead editor for Sharing America, a collaborative covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This new initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland, Oregon. Follow Holly on Twitter @hollyedgell.

Holly Edgell is the managing editor of the Midwest Newsroom, a public radio collaboration among NPR member stations in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.