One of Minnesota’s fastest growing cities, Woodbury is now the state’s 9th largest community. Since 2005, the population has grown rapidly from 54,000 to almost 70,000 in 2017. When Woodbury became a city only 50 years ago, there were fewer than 7,000 people. In spite of the rapid growth, Woodbury has worked hard to maintain a sense of the local community and the original flavor of the village that was founded in 1858.
Woodbury’s rapid growth and increasing diversity provide not only a challenge, but also an opportunity for collaboration and innovation. Since then, and especially over the past few years, City of Woodbury staff have been working to develop skills and normalize conversations about inclusion and equity. In many ways, they have been successful, although they often feel as if they’re working without a roadmap. Joining GARE will allow the City of Woodbury to tap into a national network of jurisdictions grappling with the same set of issues and questions as their city. Utilizing that peer-to-peer support will be critical as they continue on this journey.
The City of Woodbury also has a racial equity action plan to help guide their progress. One of their main goals is to cultivate an organizational culture that values and leads with equity. Ongoing trainings, along with opportunities for learning and conversation will help ensure that they create space for honest conversations about race and equity within the city. In 2017 they look forward to expanding their work through the use of a racial equity toolkit across departments.
On September 29, 2015, the Woodbury City Council approved three Strategic Initiatives (focus areas which the Council identifies for intensive research and planning every two years). One of the strategic initiatives establishes a goal of fostering an inclusive and welcoming community for all residents. As Woodbury continues to grow, it is important to retain and enhance all the great qualities and characteristics that have attracted so many people there in the first place, while also realizing that ‘community’ is different to all of us. The City Council’s directive to focus on building a welcoming and inclusive community is an ideal opportunity to adapt and expand civic pride and identity, to think creatively about the needs of the community and break down silos, and to advance racial and social equity.
The City of Woodbury strives to be a leading community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Moving forward, reflective of their increasing diversity and desire to provide access and opportunity to all, the city will critically examine their services in order to eliminate barriers to equity and recognize the existence of disparities in the community.
When people love where they live, they are happier and more likely to be actively engaged in critical decision making and innovative problem solving.
Woodbury is participating in the 2017 Minnesota Advancing Racial Equity introductory cohort.
Sarah Alig is currently serving as Assistant to the City Administrator in the City of Woodbury, Minnesota. She began her career in local government as Public Works Intern in the City of Lawrence, KS, followed by a year as the ICMA Local Government Management Fellow in the City of Olathe, KS. In 2015, she completed her Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas.