City News

Austin hires city's first-ever Civil Rights Officer as part of visionary plan

Austin hires first-ever Civil Rights Officer as part of visionary plan

Carol Johnson Austin Civil Rights Officer
Carol Johnson is Austin's first Civil Rights Officer. Photo courtesy of City of Austin

Local leaders continue to make social equity a key priority for the city's future. On January 30, the City of Austin announced the hiring of its first-ever Civil Rights Officer. 

Carol Johnson, who has spent her career fighting for civil rights and fair housing, is the newly minted CRO. With more than 20 years of experience, including as the State of Oregon Civil Rights Director and the Executive Director of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, Johnson will have a key role in creating a more equitable Austin. 

Johnson officially begins her tenure on February 16, and chief among her tasks will be:

  • developing and monitoring a clear vision for the Civil Rights Office
  • advancing Austin's non-discrimination efforts
  • promoting outreach, education, and awareness events for both businesses and community stakeholders

“I am very happy to have Carol Johnson join our team as the City’s first Civil Rights Officer. Her extensive experience in civil rights matters will be instrumental in driving the department’s programs for establishing goals, policies, and best practices that address racial equity, social equity, and inclusion for City of Austin residents,” said deputy city manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde in a release.

The new role was created as part of Strategic Direction 2023, a visionary six-point agenda for the the next three to five years. Those six points — equity, affordability, innovation, sustainability and resiliency, proactive prevention, and community trust and relationships — will help guide Johnson in her new role.

"I look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead in leading the City’s Civil Rights Office toward providing racial and social equity and inclusion for Austin residents,” Johnson said.

Austin's CRO is just the latest in a series of measures undertaken by local government to create a more equitable city. In December, Austin City Council announced a groundbreaking project for the city manager, Spencer Cronk, to write a social contract. That contract, the first draft of which is due this summer, seeks to create a universal standard by which the community's core values will help inform the government's decision.