Keeping with Newton’s goal of making the city more inclusive to minorities, Hattie Derrick is assuming the role of LGBTQ+ liaison for the City of Newton. Her new position, which expands her role as director of community engagement and inclusion, will provide support and serve as a voice for the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s a commitment,” Derrick said. “The mayor is committed to ensuring that people have a voice and that people, if something arises, that they would have someone to seek out.”
Councilor Holly Ryan previously held this position in an unofficial capacity, volunteering at the office a few days a week, Derrick said. Derrick will now step into the role full time and be accessible to residents seven days a week.
“Hattie will be the ‘go to’ person for residents as well as serve as the point person with our Police, Schools, City departments, businesses, and non-profits,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in a community update on Aug. 26.
Derrick has served as the director of community engagement and inclusion since January 2021, a role that Fuller created when she first entered office. Derrick works and engages with members of the Newton community and has a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am a member of the lesbian community, and I have a wife and two kids who live here in Newton, so it just kind of made sense,” Derrick said.
Prior to working for the mayor’s office, Derrick was on the Newton Human Rights Commission from 2012 until 2021 and served as the chair. Derrick said she has always been involved in the Newton community.
While there have been fragmented Facebook groups and affinity groups for people to turn to in the past, Derrick said her role gives more stability and consistency to this position and to the LGBTQ+ community.
“There are a number of LGBTQ+ members in the community,” Derrick said. “It’s not necessarily as organized as some other community groups, so what we would like to do is ensure that there is a voice.”
Instead of setting a specific agenda for her role, Derrick said she wants to focus on listening and hearing the wants and needs of the LGBTQ+ community in Newton.
“I’m going to start to meet with some different groups and look at and listen to our community members about what they want and what works best,” Derrick said. “There are many downsides to the pandemic, but the upside is with Zoom being utilized more often. If we want to do a Zoom group or meet outside, we can do that.”
When concerns arise, Derrick said she will help foster communication between residents and institutions, including schools, businesses, government offices, and the police.
“It’s two-way communication to ensure that everyone is treated in a just way or has a voice,” Derrick said.
Derrick said listening and being there for people is her primary concern. She encouraged the community to reach out to discuss implementing potential events or ideas.
“It really is about connecting, and we’ll say, ‘we can try it,’” Derrick said. “If it doesn’t work, let’s revamp it for next year. But if we don’t try we can’t make progress.”
Derrick will not only engage with the community through conversation, but also focus on its representation in various city boards and organizations. In addition to BIPOC representation, Derrick said she will make sure there is LGBTQ+ representation in each board to create a welcoming environment for discussion.
“I think it’s important now because everyone deserves a voice,” Derrick said. “And this is a group—the LGBTQ+ group—is a group that often isn’t heard or doesn’t have a place to turn to. And I think by me being in this role, I think it was a natural progression.”