Equity and Inclusion Officer Martine Coblentz has extensive experience bridging understanding for people with diverse backgrounds. We caught up with her to ask about heading the #ClackCo Equity and Inclusion Office, which started last year.
Why is there a need for this office?
Clackamas County recognizes the historical and current structures that perpetuate inequities and have deep impacts on our entire community. We recognize that people are differently situated given their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicities, age, social economic status, national origin, disability and other intersections of identity.
The county is working to be responsive to meet these needs, given the inequities. We are here to recognize and uplift the lived realities and experiences of residents, particularly from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups. Our vision is to be a Clackamas County where people thrive and have a sense of safety, connection and belonging, so that each person is honored and celebrated for the richness in diversity they bring.
What is the office’s purpose?
We will lead a culture of learning and awareness of equity and inclusion by guiding, supporting and collaborating with employees and residents to foster welcoming communities. We will create greater connections where all people thrive and belong.
It is the responsibility of all county employees to serve residents while holding to our principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our intertwined values in this effort include courage, compassion, learning, gratitude and connection. Having an office dedicated to this work helps provide direction to countywide efforts, and holds the county accountable to these values.
What are the office’s overarching priorities?
First, we are creating a culture of learning and awareness by providing:
- equity and inclusion training for county employees to better understand equity, diversity, inclusion, and how these topics are embedded into all of our work at Clackamas County,
- learning and training opportunities countywide with partners, cities, organizations, and
- consultations and coaching options to county departments to address needs specific to their department or projects they are working on
Next, we are creating a sense of community and connection by:
- supporting Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) — groups formed by employees to gather around a topic of shared identity, interest, or experience — to help people feel connected and have a sense of belonging in the workplace,
- creating meaningful engagement with the community through cultural events,
- holding deep discussions with marginalized community voices on creating welcoming environments,
- collaborating internally with Human Resources and county department managers on hiring employees reflective of community, and
- implementing retention practices to ensure that diverse staff feel they belong.
Last, we are creating greater access and support by:
- Clear complaints processes internally and externally, so people have informed consent and a clear understanding about their options when they have experienced harm and want to seek support, and
- Training and consulting with county departments on how to be culturally responsive, meet the needs of communities and create welcoming environments for their employees and county residents, and
- Ensuring that certain communications are multi-lingual and multi-cultural when reaching out to our diverse populations, and
- Building stronger partnerships with culturally-specific organizations, community partners, and other jurisdictions to address larger system-wide issues, such as housing, healthcare, transportation, public safety, etc.
If you could say one thing to #ClackCo residents who have felt marginalized because of their race, skin color, gender identity, or other trait/identification, what would it be?
We are very sorry to hear this has happened to you. You matter and are valued at Clackamas County for who you are and all you bring to our county.
Please know you can always come talk to us if you would like to have a place to process what happened and/or want to know what options you might have moving forward.
About the Equity and Inclusion Office staff
Equity and Inclusion Officer
I was born in Haiti from a Haitian mother and a Jewish American father. Raised in the Caribbean, Central America and the Washington, D.C. areas and having lived in different regions in the United States as an adult, I developed a keen awareness and understanding around the value of diversity, equity and inclusion. I could see that people have different lived experiences depending on how they are situated in their lives. It was important to me to elevate the voices in spaces where those perspectives are typically not centered or heard. I also wanted to help create a culture of appreciation and understanding, a place where people are building transformational relationships, honoring and valuing multiple perspectives in order to build a truly inclusive environment. Toward that end, I studied Adult and Organizational Development, Communication, and Conflict Resolution. For eight years, I worked with immigrant and refugee families involved in the child welfare, juvenile court or other systems to ensure that their voices were heard and elevated in supporting their children with behavioral health issues. I conducted trainings across the state teaching providers and professionals on ways to connect with immigrant and refugee families and ensure that their voices are heard. For seven years, I was a mediator and facilitator for Clackamas County Resolution Services facilitating dialogues, helping to build teams, and working to resolve conflict. Most recently, I was the Equity and Organizational Culture Manager in Multnomah County, working closely with Human Resources on recruitment/hiring practices, professional development and promotional opportunities, retention, and overall organizational culture. I trained and coached managers on diversity, equity and inclusion to help them better support their employees in creating an environment of safety, trust and belonging. I am the current Co-chair for the Committee on Racial Equity with Metro. I am so honored to now serve as your County Equity and Inclusion Officer. This work matters to me and I am invested in creating a better community.
Equity and Inclusion Coordinator
I come from a migrant farmworker Mexican family. My parents moved with the seasonal crops before settling in Mt. Angel to raise a family. Racism and discrimination were evident to me at a very young age; we were one of a few Mexican families in a predominantly white German town. I am very passionate about equity and providing meaningful community engagement to dismantle systems of oppression and lift up historically-excluded communities. It is important to engage diverse individuals to lead conversations and utilize their strengths/experiences to deconstruct systems that have disadvantaged vulnerable communities.
I started at Clackamas County in 1995 with the Health, Housing and Human Services’ Public Health Division’s home-visiting field-nursing team. I attended nursing school and worked fulltime providing home visits to new moms and leading health presentations to migrant farmworkers in agricultural housing. After ten years, I changed my focus and transferred to the Social Services Division (H3S) where I provided direct case management to persons with low incomes, seniors and disabled clients. I also had the privilege to work as a case manager for the Social Services Housing Pod where I assisted houseless individuals and families with resources to obtain transitional and permanent housing, and provided tenant education classes. For five years, in my position within the Children, Family and Community Connections Division (H3S), my focus was evaluating services, policies and procedures to assure equitable access and opportunities for all communities. I provided equity, diversity and inclusion trainings to employees, managers and external organizations. I staff the community-led Leaders for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council that advises the Board of County Commissioners on internal and external equity and inclusion issues. I am a member of Metro’s Committee on Racial Equity, and serve on the steering committee for the Hispanic Interagency Networking Team.
Equity and Inclusion Program Coordinator
I grew up in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, raised by my two dads and born through surrogacy. I attended college at the University of Oregon, studying Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in
Queer studies and Business. I have also spent time living in Santa Rosa, California, and am most recently coming from Boise, Idaho. Most of my career has been in higher education, including my most recent role. Because of my family upbringing and my own personal identity, the core of my work has been related to LGBTQIA+ populations, and understanding how to support LGBTQIA+ folks through an intersectional lens. My passion has always been related to equity, diversity, and inclusion work and I am incredibly excited to be in Clackamas County doing this work alongside you. I believe that in order to truly advance EDI efforts, it’s important that we take off our name tags, put our titles aside, and be human with each other. I look forward to doing that together.