I received some exciting, but also upsetting, news the other day. Viviana Felix, diversity affairs officer for Ogden City, is resigning to take a position with a nongovernmental agency in the community. While my heart was bursting with joy as I reflected on the successes of her leadership, I wondered if the community would really understand how much she will be missed.
Viviana created her position from scratch, first as a part-time bridge between BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color), the underserved, the mayor’s office and later as a full-time community connector who also sought to improve inclusive practices in city government. Viviana set the standard for modeling the responsibilities and role of the position, serving as a conduit, raising questions, sharing best practices and moving leadership from words to actions.
Of course, this would not have been possible if Viviana were anything less than a consistent and reliable city representative. As a dual-language speaker, Viviana provided immediate access to members of the Spanish-speaking community. Her efforts did not stop there — instead, operating with an equity lens, she requested resources (alongside the Diversity Commission) to support the translation of documents to provide greater access to the community.
Viviana also showed up. And by showing up, Viviana has been everywhere, all the time — from attending annual Martin Luther King Jr. events to the Hispanic Heritage festival, the Oban festival and any opportunity the Diversity Commission had to be represented in the community. Viviana attended the funeral services of community leaders in addition to the opening ceremonies of new church programs. She collaborated with Weber State University’s Community Education Center to host more than 50 youth for a summer resource event.
Working within an equity framework, Viviana created a scoring mechanism that could be used by the city’s Arts Grants Committee to award funds to applicants equitably. She addressed the lack of self-response rate to the 2020 Census in east-central Ogden by developing additional marketing strategies during COVID-19, including yard signs at partner facilities and inserts in school lunches.
Viviana organized a COVID-19 educational video for Ogden’s Spanish-speaking community with the assistance of eight community partners. She advised the mayor and the city’s chief administrative officer on topics, concerns and issues related to Ogden’s diverse communities, including police and community relations, the Marshall White Center, language barriers and ideas for city leaders to engage with the community. She also directed the city’s efforts to adopt the United for Citizenship initiative to convert more than 3,000 eligible permanent residents in Weber County to U.S. citizens.
Rounding out these efforts, Viviana conducted community presentations on a range of topics including community-outreach best practices, managing language differences, Latinx heritage and immigration.
And one last thing, Viviana managed the Ogden Diversity Commission monthly meetings, compiled our annual reports, maintained our virtual and social-media presence and made it all look easy. The reality is, it was not easy. In fact, it is labor intensive, requires trust building and commitment to repair or build bridges that have been damaged or destroyed between people who live, work and play in Ogden and those who facilitate its functions.
This is why it is critical to recognize and celebrate the work Viviana completed during her tenure. It is also why it is so necessary to make sure the powers that be understand how important it will be to fill her position with someone as highly connected, conscientious and committed to the work of equity, diversity and inclusion.
While I am confident that city leaders are already putting together a search committee to fill this role, I must say that Viviana cannot be replaced. Nor would the right candidate want to replace her. Instead, our next Diversity Affairs Officer will have a firm foundation and committed partners to move forward with, because Viviana’s efforts have resulted in a legacy.
As we continue responding to attacks on Asian people and the revival of anti-Semitism nationally and locally, more than ever we will need the support of city administration and community to directly address threats that divide us. For this reason, let us recognize and celebrate one woman who has done that work and seeks to pass the mantle on to someone new. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, may we recognize and honor living history in our community’s own Viviana Felix. We cannot wait to see what you will do next!
In the meantime, support vulnerable student populations at Weber State University by participating in Dining for Dollars, March 15-23, to benefit Weber State’s Oportunidad Scholarship Fund. Once again, Steve Ballard and the team at Sonora Grill will donate to help support first-generation or low-income students. The money also helps undocumented students, who are ineligible for financial assistance such as Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), grants or loans.