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City’s Office of Equity & Inclusion Celebrates Five Years of Impact

Office’s history and accomplishments highlighted at open house
July 26, 2023

Five years ago, Mayor Tim Keller established the City’s first Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI) and appointed Michelle Melendez to lead the office. What started as a small team of a few, has now grown into over ten team members reaching many areas of Albuquerque’s diverse communities. Under OEI is the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Office of Native American Affairs and Office of Black Community Engagement.

Over the years, OEI has taken leadership roles in many of Albuquerque’s (and the nation’s) most pressing challenges such as the humanitarian response to the mass migration of asylum seekers; the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that disproportionately impacted people of color; the racial reckoning that was sparked by George Floyd’s murder; controversial monuments in the city; and facilitating conversations for the future of the Albuquerque Indian School scared burial grounds. Additionally, through the Culture Change Initiative, the office steadily builds city employees’ equity IQ through various workshops, training and toolkits, as well as using data to drive program and policy decisions.

“Over the last five years, our Office of Equity and Inclusion has played a vital role in driving positive change that promotes investments in Albuquerque’s underserved communities,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “OEI has become a manifestation of our value that city government should work for everyone.”

OEI continues to makes waves and has gained our city national attention, recently winning first place as ‘Most Culturally Diverse City’ beating out major cities like Austin. Other cities call on Albuquerque’s office for advice about tackling inequities. In continuing the equity work, OEI is tackling new frontiers to help close the racial wealth gap through homeownership opportunities for Albuquerque’s Black and Indigenous communities, most recently being a recipient of a $550,000 grant to fund the initiative. Additionally, OEI will continue to leverage the federal government’s commitments to equity through the City’s Justice40 initiative.

Over its five year history, the Office of Equity and Inclusion has been supported by a $1.3 million Kellogg Foundation grant, $4 million federal health literacy grant, $625,000 from Living Cities, $100,000 grant from Lutheran Family Services of the Rocky Mountains, $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and funding from the state Legislature to promote equity.

The Office is responsible for implementing numerous pieces of legislation passed unanimously by the Albuquerque City Council that call for racial equity action planning, equity in capital program planning, language access, immigrant inclusion, and standing up against anti-Asian hate, to name a few. 

“I am thankful for the amazing team I have beside me leading the charge in making our city government more inclusive and equitable,” said Michelle Melendez, Director of Equity and Inclusion. “We have accomplished a lot since our inception, and the work is just beginning as we continue working towards closing the racial wealth gap.”