AUGUSTA — The city needs to take steps soon promote diversity, equity and inclusion for all, especially in the wake of a local neo-Nazi rally.

Those comments by some city councilors on Thursday come as officials are discussing the formation of a diversity, equity and inclusion committee. City councilors said they need to educate themselves on those issues first, before forming a committee and setting policy, so they know what the committee’s goals should be.

At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle said the city can’t afford to wait, especially in the wake of a recent racist demonstration by a group of about two dozen neo-Nazis in Augusta.

“One of the reasons I’m very passionate about this subject is because of a particular group that was in our city several weeks ago,” said St. Valle, referring to a demonstration that has since been denounced by state and local officials and prompted a much larger counter-demonstration. “My family being minority, it hits different, when you see what those people had to say at one of our rotaries. And that’s a shared experience with other people who are minorities in our city. And they don’t feel safe. And they don’t feel welcome. So putting this out another six months doesn’t make me comfortable. And it shouldn’t make anyone comfortable that something like that happened in our city.”

Augusta City Manager Susan Robertson, who previously had offered to bring in a facilitator to help educate councilors on diversity, equity and inclusion, said she would try to make that happen as soon as possible.

St. Valle, who is married to a Black man who in 2022 ran unsuccessfully to represent Augusta in the state Senate, Storme St. Valle, on Thursday submitted a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that she drafted. It was created in part by taking pieces from other municipalities’ policies compiled by Elise Worth, an intern working for the city’s police department, and Jared Mills, Augusta’s police chief and assistant city manager.


But some councilors said the city should form a diversity, equity and inclusion committee before forming any policy on those issues, and allow the committee to make recommendations. Forming a committee to review the city’s efforts at diversity, equity and inclusion was one of the goals for the year set by city councilors in January.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind, before his retirement as a general, noted that he was chairman of the Maine National Guard’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee under two governors, Janet Mills and Paul LePage.

“I remember we talked about this is January, and it’s a difficult topic,” Lind said, referring to a city council discussion. “So I think forming the committee is extremely important but I’d like to see the committee form and come up with a mission, a vision. And come back to us. I think it needs to be done carefully and purposefully.”

Lind said the city needs to ensure its policies on diversity, equity and inclusion include a focus on staff recruiting and retention, as well as economic development, as companies are looking for communities that are open and welcoming. He said he is sure there are some pieces of city policies that need to be reviewed and changed with a goal of ensuring diversity.

Augusta Mayor Mark O’Brien said it would make sense for the council to meet with a facilitator to make sure, in discussing diversity, equity and inclusion, they all share an understanding of the topic.

“At least we’d have a common jumping off point,” O’Brien said. “Then we can reach our own conclusions from there. I think our level of appreciation or understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion varies from individual to individual and maybe a primer on this so we’re all coming from a common vocabulary and understanding of the issues might be helpful, before we take the next step.”

Councilors also agreed to have an attorney for the city work on a draft diversity, equity and inclusion policy.

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