Civilian human rights director resigns, contributes to impressive legacy



DES MOINES, IOWA – Friday July 9, 2021 – Des Moines Director of Civil and Human Rights Joshua V. Barr has announced that he is stepping down from his post with the City to pursue other interests. During his six years as a Director, Barr has created unique opportunities and set new standards for Des Moines in the areas of equity, inclusion and justice.

“Des Moines owes Joshua a great debt of gratitude for the tremendous contributions he has made to our community and its residents,” said Mayor Frank Cownie. “His tireless efforts and unwavering dedication have opened up new perspectives and renewed trust in one another – and for that, we are now a better city. “

Barr’s most important achievement is the implementation of Bridging the gap, an initiative that aims to achieve long-term community change that is systemic, sustainable, equitable and inclusive through policy. He focuses on the areas of community and government relations, refugee and immigrant rights, and LGBTQ + rights.

In 2020, Barr’s documentary, Break the bread, build bridges won the Governor’s Emmy® Award from the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Break the bread, build bridges was a project designed and led by Barr to determine what happens when people are asked to spend time with other members of our community who have very different backgrounds and life experiences.

Barr also dramatically enhanced the Annual Symposium on Civil and Human Rights, a tradition in Des Moines since 1986, by focusing the symposium on specific themes, increasing audience participation by 250%, attracting attendees from across Iowa as well. than Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri.

“I would like to personally thank Joshua for his dedicated service to our city. Having served on the Civil and Human Rights Commission for most of his tenure, I can speak firsthand of the time and effort he devoted to making Des Moines a more equitable place for all residents, ”said said Kam Middlebrooks, chairman of the Commission on Civil and Human Rights. “Of Bridging the gap initiative at the break bread documentary, he was truly a creative agent of change for Des Moines.

Civil rights investigations under Barr’s tenure also increased by more than 168% and findings of probable cause discrimination increased by 500%. Two months ago, the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission won a $ 50,000 lawsuit against a landlord who discriminated against housing by discouraging potential tenants from renting housing because of their religion or their national origin.

“I am grateful to have had this opportunity to serve,” said Barr. “A special thank you to everyone who supported the work we have done here in the city. We could not have achieved what we have achieved without the support of the community. I look forward to spending time with my nieces and nephews and catching up on some book reading, but my efforts in this job will never stop.

City Manager Scott Sanders says Barr’s leadership and leadership will be sorely missed, but Des Moines remains committed to advancing justice, promoting equality and ensuring human rights protection for all at Des Moines. Monks through education, advocacy, community engagement, and civil rights investigations. offenses.

“Joshua helped the city identify concrete strategies to improve our community relations with often disadvantaged groups. With Joshua’s guidance, we’ve made tremendous strides in understanding our own implicit biases and sadly how similar perspectives in the past have shaped broken policies with disparate impacts, ”said Sanders. “Joshua has shown the value of stopping to see decisions from a fairness perspective and has put in place a framework to assess the impacts of our decisions. We still have some distance to go on this journey, but the proper way forward is much better understood now thanks to Joshua’s efforts. “

Sanders says an interim director will be put in place while a nationwide search for a new director of civil and human rights is conducted. Barr ends his work with the City on July 23.

Al Setka
Head of Communications, Office of the Director General
(515) 283-4057

About the City of Des Moines
The City of Des Moines: The capital of Iowa and the local government serving over 217,000 residents, 52 neighborhoods, over 4,000 acres of parkland and 81 miles of trails. The city of Des Moines aims to be a financially sound city with exceptional municipal services, fostering an involved community in a friendly atmosphere. Visit DSM.ville, Facebook and Twitter for more information.



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