County pledges money to hire more minorities

Two months after creating a new position for an inclusion manager, the Snohomish County government plans to spend today searching for new minority employees at a job fair it’s helping to fund.

The county has participated in the Multicultural Job Fair at Everett Community College before, but this year is the first that it has given money — about one-fifth of the cost of the fair — to the cause of minority employment.

It’s a bid to attract more minorities to work for the county, said Van Dinh Kuno, director of the Snohomish County Refugee and Immigrant Forum and co-chairwoman of the job fair.

“We have met with the county, and they’ve told us they know they’re way behind,” she said.

About 20 percent of Snohomish County’s population is minority, but only 8 percent of the county’s employees are minorities, Kuno said.

Fifty employers will set up shop, complete with ballpoint pens, paper applications and free trinkets, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in a multipurpose room at Everett Community College. Interpreters will offer their services in eight languages.

Every year, demand at the fair grows, Kuno said.

That’s part of the reason that the county council approved the hiring of an inclusion manager, who will be charged with making the county government friendlier to minority employees.

About 25 people have applied for the position, county spokesman Christopher Schwarzen said. There’s no timeline for when the applicants will be interviewed, or when someone will be hired.

County leaders are aware that minorities make up less than 10 percent of the county’s staff, and that the number does not match the region’s demographics, Schwarzen said.

About 18 percent of the county’s residents are not white, according to federal Census data estimated in 2006. The area isn’t nearly as diverse as other regions of the country or the state. In King County, for example, 27 percent of the population is not white. In Yakima County, 40 percent of the population is Latino, according to 2006 estimates.

Even so, the county’s population is changing fast. In 1950, Snohomish County was less than one percent nonwhite, said Bo Tunestam, treasurer of Communities of Color Coalition, a local minority advocacy group.

Since 1970, and especially within the past decade, the face of the county has changed rapidly, he said. Local schools that reported that 15 percent of their students were minorities now say they number 25 percent or more.

“There is no reason to think that what we’ve experienced over the past 10 years will in any way slow down or change,” Tunestam said.

Snohomish County’s department heads plan to actively recruit minorities at multiple tables at the job fair, said Debbie Corn of the Alderwood Community Services Office and co-chairwoman of the fair.

“They’re very committed to diversity,” she said.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or

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