Prince William County officials are seeking public input about the first draft of a wide-reaching new policy aimed at ensuring equal and equitable access to county government services for residents.
The proposed “Equity and Inclusion Policy” will be the first of its kind in the county. It is the result of a directive the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved nearly unanimously in June 2020. The directive asked county staff to “develop a framework for becoming a more inclusive and equitable Prince William County.”
All supervisors voted in favor of the directive except for Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, who was absent from the meeting.
If adopted in its current form, the new policy will inform all other county government policies, planning, practices and programs as they apply to the delivery of government services.
“The intended outcome out of [the policy] is really to increase our services to the public at large, and to guarantee the public is aware of the services that we offer and that they have access to those services,” Prince William County’s Equity and Inclusion Officer Maria Burgos said in an interview with Prince William Times on Tuesday, July 6.
The Office of Equity and Inclusion, led by Burgos, spent the last year working with more than 17 other county agencies, including the office of executive management, police and social services, to create the draft policy, Burgos said.
The county released the draft policy for public comment on July 1. The comment period will be open until Friday, July 23. Once county officials receive public input, the supervisors will hold a public hearing and final vote on the policy.
If the board approves the policy, the county will then hire a consulting firm to assess current equity and inclusion practices, Burgos said.
The draft policy is 10 pages long and outlines the policy’s stated goals and priority areas for promoting equity and inclusion. Next steps include setting goals and creating action strategies, Burgos said. It also includes a four-page appendix of term definitions and resources.
The overarching goal of the policy is to provide all Prince William County residents “equal access and equitable opportunity” to social and economic benefits of the community by “reducing and mitigating any disparities, and reforming conditions that hinder progress toward equity,” according to the draft document.
Burgos said that could include expanding the partnerships between county government and the community at-large to increase outreach and engagement, a move she said would allow county officials to promote “the diversity of our community” and give “community more of a voice across [county] agencies.”
It would also create “equity teams” within every county agency to facilitate the policy’s implementation and would direct agencies to “build cultural competency” within the county government.
The draft includes references to similar policies enacted by other state and local agencies, including Fairfax County’s racial and social equity policy, adopted by both the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and school board in 2017, and the “One Virginia Plan,” a statewide equity strategy approved by the General Assembly in spring 2021.
Supervisor Victor Angry, D-Neabsco, said Tuesday he would support the policy as drafted, but added that it is still a “work in progress.”
“I will be supporting creating this equity and inclusion policy for the county,” Angry said via email. “ ... This is a new work in progress and with all things new, there will be lessons learned and course direction changes to ultimately make it the best policy.”
No other supervisors provided comments on the draft policy in response to emailed questions.
The proposed Equity and Inclusion Policy is separate from the county’s 12-member Racial and Social Justice Commission, which has been meeting monthly since earlier this year to evaluate residents’ experiences with county government services, police and the school division.
The commission is charged with compiling a report of its findings by the end of the year that will include policy recommendations to be considered for adoption by the board of county supervisors.
Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com