In keeping with campaign pledges to build a Cabinet reflective of the city’s myriad of ethnic groups, Mayor–elect Jim Kenney has tapped veteran barrister Nolan N. Atkinson Jr. as his administration’s Chief Diversity Officer.
Atkinson will fill the newly created position in January.
Kenney made the formal announcement Tuesday afternoon and said he would expand on Atkinson’s selection during a press conference Wednesday morning.
“Nolan Atkinson Jr. will serve as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer," said Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Kenney. "The chief diversity and inclusion officer will report directly to the mayor on diversity and inclusion issues.
“The position will challenge barriers that keep the city's workforce racially and economically divided and demonstrates Mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s commitment of reducing the barriers in city government that prevent talented, diverse leaders from working in the public sector," she added.
Atkinson's credentials for the job include holding a similar position at the Philadelphia office of Duane Morris LLP, where he is a member of its trial practice group and managed diversity programs, Hitt said. He is also the former chair and a founder of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group Inc., a consortium of law firms and corporations committed to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the city's larger law firms, she added.
Hitt also noted Atkinson's previous served in government: a 12-year stint as a commissioner in Lower Merion Township and a 2008 appointment to Mayor Michael Nutter's Advisory Task Force on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform.
Atkinson also successfully petitioned to have his great–grandfather posthumously admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, a right his grandfather was refused in 1847 due to racial discrimination.
Atkinson said he was looking forward to filling the position and welcomed the opportunity.
“I think when you talk about diversity and inclusion, you talk about how you can bring people together,” Atkinson said. “And you can do that through all levels of government in the city, so we be sure to maximize the best of our citizens so that we can be a world-class city.
“And being a world-class city is something all Philadelphians would like, and in order to do that, diversity and inclusion has to be a cornerstone,” he added.
According to his legal bio provided by the law firm, Atkinson has had trials in both the state and federal courts, and is an experienced litigator in commercial matters representing banks, insurance companies and railroads in major disputes.
“I’m challenged, to have this opportunity, and I’m very grateful for it, and will try to serve to the best of my ability,” Atkinson said.
“We are certainly at the very beginning of a new administration and will have to very much wait and collaborate with others as to the exact scope of what I will be doing, but I look forward to this opportunity,” he added.