Statement from the Town Manager Regarding Andover DIVERSE
I wanted to take the opportunity to update the community on our progress advancing the discussion about racism, equity and inclusion in Andover. For the past several months, this discussion has been a major priority for the organization and has involved honest and open conversations with residents, businesses and across our municipal departments. I am grateful for the input of community stakeholders to date which at times has been both eye opening and constructive as we determine the necessary next steps for the community.
On July 9th, I announced the creation of Andover DIVERSE, a division that would focus on advancing community driven initiatives aimed at building a more diverse and inclusive Andover. Having a dedicated resource within our organizational structure seemed like a logical and appropriate step for the Town to take as we begin this journey. Based on his proven track record, professional experience and training, I assigned the responsibilities of leading this division to Sobhan Namvar. Sobhan did a phenomenal job in developing a basic framework for soliciting community input and gave us a reality check about the presence of racism in Andover.
Today, I am disappointed to report that Sobhan’s efforts were met with aggressive resistance by some in our community calling into question Sobhan’s own ethnicity, religion and credibility.
While prepared and willing to forge ahead, Sobhan and I concluded that the only way for the community to move forward was for him to step back. I understand and respect Sobhan’s decision to step back, but I am nonetheless disappointed. I stand by our collectively held values of civility, respect and tolerance and expect that those values will be the heart of our efforts to build a better Andover.
I thank Sobhan for his willingness to contribute to this important work and for his leadership over the past month. I am pleased that Sobhan will continue in his role as our Community Support Coordinator. In this work Sobhan has built a model program that connects residents in need with the services necessary to help them build positive and healthy futures.
Our commitment to developing initiatives focused on race, diversity, equity and inclusion is as strong as ever. We stand by our commitment to engage the services of our consultant Richard Pinderhughes, who will be working with us to craft the community survey and focus groups which will provide us all with a solid appreciation of the needs, concerns and priorities of our community where matters of racism, equity and inclusion are concerned. Richard will provide us a set of recommendations; a road map, if you will, that will help us move from our current state to our desired future state on these critical matters.
In the interim, Jemma Lambert, our Director of Community Services will manage our next steps. In the spirit of transparency, I want to be forthcoming with setting reasonable expectations for the weeks and months ahead. This will be at the forefront of our work program as we head into fall and we will be asking for your participation in all the ways that I have outlined above. However, we begin this work shorthanded and there may be delays in providing answers to questions that have been submitted over the past month and at the Community Forum. That said, we will continue to utilize resources across all municipal departments in order to maintain momentum and continue the progress we have started over the past several weeks and months.
I ask all of you to join me in working together in the spirit of respect and collaboration on these critical issues. I ask all of you to join me in finding solutions to these complex issues and to do so shoulder to shoulder with any/all who wish to join us in this work.
I remain fully committed to this effort and our entire team looks forward to engaging with you in the weeks and months ahead. It is through your input and continued thoughtfulness around these issues that we will build our path forward. I ask for your patience as we regroup and look forward to meeting you in places where we can advance these discussions. Please email us your thoughts and questions by sending them to InclusiveAndover@Andoverma.us
Andrew P. Flanagan