Innovation Award 2000

About the Award

The City of Hampton, Virginia has enjoyed a long history of positive race relations. Many long-time minority residents point proudly to the fact that minorities have long felt welcomed by the Hampton majority community. In 1959, when the Governor of Virginia closed public schools to avoid integration; Hampton refused to close its schools. City leaders simply decided to confront the issue constructively and move on in an open and positive way.

When the city was developing a new strategic plan, five critical impacting issues were identified and would guide the plan:

  • Customer delight
  • Healthy business climate
  • Healthy families
  • Healthy neighborhoods
  • Healthy region

In a series of public forums, citizens themselves identified two more issues for inclusion in the plan: healthy schools and healthy race relations. The Citizens' Unity Commission (CUC) is the city's direct response to community concerns about the nature of relationships among its diverse population.

Group Development

In support of the Healthy Race Relations initiative, the Citizens' Unity Commission was appointed and staffed by shared resources from city departments. The city's Executive Management Team had agreed to support the critical issues initiatives.

Proactively, a standing Citizens' Unity Commission, which is composed of 20 citizens, designs and implements programs to help the community appreciate the diversity in Hampton. Members represent diverse ethnic and racial groups found in the city. The commission also includes youth representation from all of the local high schools. A staff to two full time and two part-time persons supports the commission.

To respond reactively, the council created an Ad Hoc Leadership Group. Composed of widely recognized and credible leaders, the Ad Hoc Leadership Group reviews any incident that threatens to be divisive to the community and recommends action to the CUC.

About the CUC

The CUC developed and implemented a variety of programs and projects to bring together diverse groups in Hampton. In addition to existing programs, the commission is constantly seeking new ways to address diversity as an asset. Increasing interest in and support of A initiatives indicates that residents of Hampton want more opportunities to learn more about the various groups that make up the city. The commission's challenge is to provide venues for interaction among the groups that lead to respect, understanding and harmony among citizens of Hampton.