Michigan Mayors Against LGBTQ Discrimination
As BTL continues the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination series, we hear from Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies who was first elected in 2011 as the city of Jackson’s 6th Ward representative before winning the election in 2017 to serve his first term as Jackson Mayor. While he has served as Vice President to the Jackson Housing Commission and Secretary to the Jackson Human Relations Commission, he currently serves on the City’s Planning Commission, the Ella Sharp Park Board of Trustees, and numerous project-based committees, as well as many other boards and commissions by virtue of his office.
As an Eagle Scout, Dobies volunteers as a unit commissioner to the Cascades District Boys Scouts of America and, in the community, as a board member to the John George Home and the Jackson Eyeopeners Lions Club. At Michigan State University, Dobies received a degree in Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy, a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and a certification in Homeland Security. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Danielle, and their daughter.
Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination is a bipartisan coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to securing inclusive non-discrimination protections for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, at all levels of government. It is a program of Freedom for All Americans, the bipartisan campaign to win comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination protections nationwide. Since its inception, membership in Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination has grown to 307 mayors in 48 states and the District of Columbia, including 19 mayors in Michigan.
Why did you join Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination?
As mayors, it’s important for us to build tolerant, inclusive communities. Last year Jackson passed the Non-Discrimination Ordinance to prohibit LGBT discrimination and show that our city values diversity as a strength. This coalition allows us to turn and join with other cities in advocating for similar protections in cities and state capitals across our country.
How does your city promote fairness, diversity and inclusion, and why is that important?
All of our city staff are undergoing poverty training, and racial equity training to build a more compassionate, understanding city infrastructure that can better develop, and implement, solutions that derive from a view of our problems through a social justice lens. It’s important to be able to understand where we all come from individually to fully envision where we can go, collectively, as a community.
We also promote fairness and inclusion through the law. We passed the Non-Discrimination Ordinance to provide an enforcement mechanism by which we can ensure that nobody has to live in fear of discrimination because of who they are, or who they love.
As mayor, what role do you play in challenging discrimination, and making your city more inclusive?
Mayors are the elected leaders of their communities. It’s important for leaders to not only oppose discrimination themselves, but actively work on the policies, programs and projects that will help build more inclusive communities. In Michigan, cities are already leading the state in combating discrimination against the LGBT community, and I believe in Mayors there is opportunity for us to continue to drive that narrative while pushing for other reforms at the state level.
How do you ensure that your city’s objectives are consistently reflected in the actions of municipal employees?
Attitude reflects leadership. When Mayors lead their communities in conversations around discrimination, tolerance, inclusion – I believe that it sets the tone by which city employees will carry out their work. As leaders we must fight for those who often cannot fight for themselves, and inspire others to do the same.
Where does your city need to improve?
Jackson will continue to lead the state in fighting to build a more tolerant, inclusive Michigan. We will work with the Jackson Human Relations Commission to continue local efforts to promote diversity, and raise the bar for how we build a city free from discrimination. I plan to work towards Jackson scoring top in the state for LGBT equality on standards like the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
What is your vision for your city 10 years from now, in terms of being a welcoming place to live, work, and operate a business?
Jackson is taking a stand to built a more tolerant, inclusive city that views diversity as a strength. In the next decade, we hope to be able to attract the top talent necessary for our city to compete in a 21st century economy and things like the non-discrimination ordinance and other measures to ensure a welcoming, diverse city are a crucial component of that effort.
Connect with Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies online at cityofjackson.org or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/cityofjacksonmi/.