By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton looked to the White House in prefacing comments relating to people of color and public service.
“I think it’s important to note a man of color is the President of the United States, which is historic and hopefully will serve as a role for young, aspiring men and women of color to seek public office,” Dayton said.
One place Dayton sees a need for public officials mirroring the state’s racial and ethnic mix is the judiciary.
He recalls his own jury service, how the accused, a person of color, stood before a white jury.
“When people go in and get their moment of justice, they want to see somebody that looks like them,” Dayton said.
“I’m conscious of that,” he said.
“That’s human nature,” Dayton said of the longing for familiarity.
In selecting judges, he looks beyond color of skin, Dayton said.
“There are qualities that are not a function of race at all, that are paramount to being an effective public servant — that’s intelligence, integrity, empathy,” he said.
“Those are the qualities in terms of people I select I look for. Because without, they’re simply not going to be as effective as someone who has those qualities,” Dayton said.
Where is Minnesota in terms of comfort with its own diversity?
“It varies from person to person,” Dayton said.
“Minnesota has undergone tremendous demographic change in the last 20 years,” he said.
“I think people who are older, whose life has been spent in non minority enclaves are going to have more difficulty adjusting than children who from their first day in school are with a variety of classmates,” Dayton said.
Because many state job applicants do not check boxes identifying race on application forms, it’s hard tracking trends in hiring, according to Dayton administration officials.
The administration has taken pains to attract a diverse cabinet and workforce, Dayton said.
“It’s an ongoing endeavor on our part,” he said.
“I think we’re almost guaranteed that we won’t be successful by any measure of what we would like to achieve and what we’re able to achieve,” Dayton said.
There are a lot of talented minority men and women and they have plenty of opportunities in corporations and non profits, he explained.
One consideration is pay.
People of color the administration wanted to hire have turned down offers because of pay, Dayton explained.
“The reality is, it makes it harder attract people who are raising families,” he said.
What role does diversity play in deciding whom he’ll vote for?
“Diversity is one of my considerations,” Dayton said.
But if a candidate stands out in terms of intelligence, experience, empathy, that’s the person who’ll get his vote, he said.