Letter from the mayor to employees: Ensuring a safe, respectful workplace

Editor’s Note: Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund sent the following letter to all city employees on April 25 in the wake of news reports about the controversy surrounding the settlement of a sexual harassment claim against a former Whatcom County Public Works director.

Dear municipal employees,

Our community deserves great local government, and our public employees deserve a great place to work. As Mayor of Bellingham, I am working to create the culture, tools and resources to make this vision a reality. Investing in employees and creating a highly engaged, inclusive and responsive workforce is a priority I identified before I took office, and it’s a priority I think about every day.

I am only the second woman to serve as a top executive at the city, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by many confident, capable female leaders. Recent news of allegations regarding the handling of alleged sexual harassment by our colleagues in Whatcom County government has caused many of us to reflect on our own experiences as we navigate various workplaces throughout our careers. As leaders, we have power. We are committed and committed to using our positions to continue the shift forward so that everyone feels safe, respected and valued; valued for their contributions at work and valued for who they are. I am grateful for all the city leaders who share this commitment.

Since taking office, I have consciously focused on transparency, courage and trust-building to strengthen relationships between city teams and make room for hard, courageous conversations. I expect the city to be the kind of workplace where we can be vulnerable and engage in constructive conflict to confront power and privilege, even in challenging situations. I lead a team that, at all levels, is responsible for meeting these expectations.

Here are some steps I took to put my vision into practice:

  • I restarted the city’s leadership series, a series of regular meetings with more than 200 supervisors, department heads, and other staff in management positions. Through that series, we create a shared culture, where we all have a responsibility to create an excellent workplace.
  • I am leading a change process with the department lead team, calling on them to share responsibility as the city’s “first team” serving Bellingham and our staff.

As Mayor, I promise that we will not be complacent in the face of this week’s news. We adhere to the highest standards and do everything we can to prevent similar occurrences in our workplace. We are starting conversations across the city government and taking this opportunity to re-examine and re-evaluate our policies regarding harassment. If you are concerned about the way you are being or have been treated by a colleague, I invite you to report it. We strive to create an environment where employees feel safe and have the opportunity to share any concerns they may have. Our process for reporting and investigating complaints is under my signature.

Thank you for your excellent work as city employees. Together we are building a committed, inclusive and responsible city that delivers the best possible government in service of the community we love.

Kim Lund, mayor