Developing leadership in a city’s immigrant communities

Name: Carla Williams Scott

Title: Director, Department of Neighborhoods

City: Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, is home to many immigrant communities, including one of the country’s highest concentrations of Somali refugees. As the city’s link between City Hall and the public, Carla Williams-Scott is determined to overcome language and cultural hurdles to get these residents engaged in the work of the city. One of the ways she’s doing so is through a new leadership-development program called the New Americans Leadership Academy, where students can take classes on the ins and outs of city government, ethics, and diversity. The city hopes graduates will take what they learn back to their communities to help their neighbors better navigate city life. “Depending on where they came here from, some immigrants might not have previously had positive experiences with their government,” Williams-Scott said. “That’s why we want to make sure they are acclimated to our local government, so that we can do our best to really represent the diversity that is Columbus.” One graduate of last fall’s inaugural class is now considering a run for local office — either city council or the school board. “That’s exactly what we want,” Williams-Scott said. “For people to come away from this program wanting to get involved, make a difference, and be the voice of other folks in the community.”

“You can’t walk into a problem with your own personal agenda. You have to walk in with what the community wants and make that happen.”

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