With the passing of Senate Bill 129 prohibiting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, many state colleges and agencies are scrambling to adjust their policies before the ban goes into effect in October.

However, Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, who created the city's first director of diversity, equity and inclusion position after being elected in 2022, isn't concerned about the bill and has no intention of changing how his administration operates.

"To paraphrase Rhett Butler: Frankly, I don't give a damn about that bill," he told 1819 News. "It doesn't improve the life of a single citizen in my city. Gadsden residents want their roads fixed, their streets cleaned, and a whisper of hope about their economic future and quality of life."

Despite having DEI in the title, Ford said the bill did not address the DEI director position, currently held by Ruth Moffatt.

"Nothing in that law applies to Mrs. Moffatt's position, which confirms that the fly-by-night political consultants behind it have no idea what they are talking about," he said. "So far, Mrs. Moffatt's work has been focused on serving veterans, children with disabilities, senior citizens, mothers, infants, and entrepreneurs, to name a few."

Moffatt said in a statement to 1819 News that her position is "all about helping take care of Gadsden's vulnerable populations."

She said, "I work with the City's Community Development Department, the Gadsden Transit Services, the Gadsden-Etowah Emergency Management Agency, the Family Success Center, the Gadsden Museum of Art and History, the City's Cemeteries, the Municipal Court, and more."

Among the many projects she's worked on since being the first person to hold the position, she listed providing access to free public transit to veterans, erecting playgrounds and ballfields for children with disabilities, paving the roads and streets of low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, installing Alabama's third Safe Haven Baby Box, adding new mental health services through our municipal court, supporting training for first responders to help prevent human trafficking and abuse, and holding outside agencies accountable and fiscally responsible for their use of taxpayer funds.

"You see, there are many types of diversity and many ways to describe diversity," she said. "All of the things I've worked on and am working on involve facilitating the community's resources for optimum access to quality of life, particularly for residents most in need. That's diversity. The citizens who have benefited from my work, through the vision of Mayor Ford and the Gadsden City Council, benefitted because they are now more included in their city's future. That's inclusion.

"At their greatest time of need, they were offered a little support that recognized they mattered to their city. That's equity… [T]he City of Gadsden does not engage in the activities outlined in this new law, nor do we intend to. So, we will continue to comply with all applicable laws while serving the citizens of Gadsden to the best of our ability."

Mayor Ford made it clear neither Moffatt nor the DEI director position would be going anywhere regardless of the new law.

"If these citizens are the ones state lawmakers want us to stop serving, they can come up here to Gadsden and tell them to their faces why they don't matter as much as scoring headlines or political pandering," he said. "I'll be sure to have the cameras rolling! Until then, Mrs. Moffatt's work is working for Gadsden, and as long as that is the case, she will have a spot on my team."

To connect with the story's author or comment, email daniel.taylor@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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