BEND, OR -- Bend’s new Equity and Inclusion Director started work Monday. Andrés Portela acknowledges there will be challenges ahead, "How do we say, as a government, 'we are serving all Bend residents in a way that we can quantify'? And say, ‘we can serve you so much better'." But, he tells KBND News he sees those challenges as opportunities. "I think this is a really good moment for relationship building; a really good moment for shared objectives and figuring out how do we track progress together? The opportunities I see in Bend are ultimately how do we foster that level of community collaboration? And how do we do it in a way that doesn’t leave anybody behind?"
Portela started his career in civil rights working in fair housing and health equity. He comes most recently from Tucson where he started the Office of Equity, and says he’s been impressed with the progress made by the city of Bend since 2016. "My role is purely to figure out how do we operationalize it? How do we do it in a way that is no longer just buzzwords, but in a way that is deeply promoted and supported, and commonplace in our everyday work?"
He sees “diversity, equity and inclusion” more than just related to race. Portela believes DEI is important to all socio-economic levels and every way in which a person identifies. He wants to develop a framework for internal city processes to make sure no one is left out, "Then, figuring out how do we work with community and partner with them on delivering services that are culturally competent, acknowledge some policy changes that need to be done, focusing on budgets, focusing on contracts, all the different things? But making sure we do it in a way that’s with community."
Portela says his first job is to get to know the city, various departments and greater community.