New EEO Officer Is All About R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Although he may not have realized it at the time, every previous job he had was preparing Gregory Townsend for his position as District 7 Equal Opportunity Employment Officer.
Originally from Philadelphia, Townsend’s background includes military service, which can be seen in his lingering dedication to physical fitness. He’s committed to its benefits of improving quality of life and makes himself available as a sort of (unofficial) training consultant at the Wellness Center most days. “I’ve become more and more of an advocate for physical fitness since I turned 45,” he said, adding that he still wants to be as active as he is now well into his old age. “As kind of a personal thing, I decided I was not going to let these young guys outdo me.”
Good thing, as he has had to hit the ground running since joining EEO last July, where he had to start doing trainings with little training himself.
Townsend’s last position was in Maintenance Support, handling Red Folder complaints and monitoring Maintenance Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program (MAZEEP) with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), among other duties. Before joining Caltrans in 2008, he previously worked as a project management consultant for a firm doing business with District 8, a magazine editor, a newspaper reporter and a travel writer, where he was “treated like a rock star.” In addition to its glamour, travel writing gave him an opportunity to broaden his perspective, he said. “It helped me appreciate the incredibly diverse world we live in.”
And now he’s come full circle, to where appreciating and promoting diversity is a major part of his job again. “When you travel a lot, you develop a sensitivity to humans, regardless of where they come from and what language they speak,” he said. “We’re all EEO officers if we believe in diversity and respect.”
In addition to his role in resolving employee disputes, Townsend also leads the diversity awareness and sexual harassment trainings. He’s aware he has a different style than his predecessor, retired EEO Officer James Crouse, but believes he can put his own spin on the trainings that will make them enjoyable and informative. “I’d like to be more of a facilitator than an instructor,” he said.
Townsend has a number of goals for the office that include reducing the amount of sexual harassment claims it receives, which he plans to accomplish through increased trainings and “whatever it takes to make our district a model as it relates to getting along with each other,” he said, adding that he believes that most harassing behavior results from ignorance of what other people find offensive.
He also wants to develop additional teaching tools, such as videos, skits and “some exciting things down the road,” he said. “We have that great plaza – who says we can’t have a little fun while learning how to work together?”
Newly relocated to the District 7 area, Townsend is very happy he can now turn his commuting time into recreational activities, such as going to the beach and taking advantage of local attractions when his teenage kids come to visit on weekends. His hobbies also include playing guitar and percussive instruments; he never met a drumming circle he didn’t like. And, of course, there are the fitness activities.
He will be appearing again in Inside 7, as an EEO column is in development. “It will be a way of communicating with employees and providing tips on how to handle certain issues,” he said. “It also might include employees’ own stories from the trenches.”
In the meantime, Townsend would like everyone to know that EEO is a place where they can come just to talk and to get information – not just to file a complaint. “EEO should serve as an office where our primary product is respect.”