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Arlington County Names New Chief Race and Equity Officer

Deputy County Manager Samia Byrd has been promoted to the new position of Chief Race and Equity Officer, Arlington County announced today.

Byrd, a long-time county employee who previously worked in the Department of Community Planning, Housing and a Development, will oversee work “to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues.”

A University of Virginia graduate and Hampton, Va. native, Byrd said she is looking forward to the challenges ahead in the new role.

“The time is past due to dedicate and commit our time, resources and effort to advancing race and equity in achieving Arlington’s vision of a diverse and inclusive community,” she said in a statement. “It is an opportunity we should not take lightly or as a response to the moment, and one I approach with humility.”

More from a county press release, below.

As the Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County, Samia Byrd will lead the County’s work to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion both internal and external to the organization. This includes guiding and facilitating the development and implementation of important policies and practices through an equity lens.

“Samia will be instrumental to helping Arlington better understand the cracks in our foundation,” stated County Manager Mark Schwartz. “I am excited to have her in this new leadership role as we identify the solutions moving forward to ensure that everyone in Arlington has the same opportunities regardless of the color of their skin, their education level, their housing type, their job, or the Arlington ZIP code where they live. I am honored that she will take on this work.  She will bring a deep sense of commitment, faith, and insight to a subject that is profoundly, at its core, about what type of community we want to be.”

Ms. Byrd will continue to oversee and manage the County’s coordinated work with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government (COG) Racial Equity Cohort comprised of Senior County and Arlington Public Schools staff, to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues. This includes working closely with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all, to help guide the development of a racial equity tool later this year.

Once developed, the racial equity tool will be used in guiding policy, practice, program and budget decisions and offer new strategies for achieving racial equity outcomes in Arlington. Ms. Byrd will also have a pivotal role in developing and implementing a Countywide Racial Equity Action Plan.

“The time is past due to dedicate and commit our time, resources and effort to advancing race and equity in achieving Arlington’s vision of a diverse and inclusive community. It is an opportunity we should not take lightly or as a response to the moment, and one I approach with humility,” stated Ms. Byrd. “I look forward to the journey as an organization and community to bring about sustainable, systemic change to improve opportunity, access and quality of life for all regardless of race.”

Prior to this appointment, Ms. Byrd has served as Deputy County Manager for the past three years, after spending over a decade as a Principal Planner in the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. In addition to her time in Arlington County, Ms. Byrd also served as Manager with Quadel Consulting Corporation, the Director of State Fiscal Analysis and Policy for the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. Earlier in her career, she held a research position with the Urban Land Institute where she worked on strategic, community and master planning, short- and long-term organization and program-specific local housing authority plans; tax policy and its impacts on low income and vulnerable and disadvantaged populations; neighborhood and community economic development programs; and real estate development markets and trends.

Ms. Byrd, a native of Hampton, VA, earned a Master’s Degree from Georgia Tech, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Virginia.  Ms. Byrd received a Certification of Public Management (CPM) from The George Washington University-Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Institute for Regional Excellence in 2012. She serves on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Planning Committee in Alexandria, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Urban Plan Steering Committee, and ULI-Washington’s Pathways to Inclusion Program and Diversity & Inclusion Working Group.  Ms. Byrd is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

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