2016 Robert Phillips Regional Diversity Award Winner
Kory Murphy is an extraordinary leader at Multnomah County whose work in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion has had far-reaching impacts in both Multnomah County as well as with other jurisdictions in this region.
Born and raised in Portland, OR by his mother, with help from determined grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends, Kory’s family experience—mixed with sports, faith and education—shaped his desire and life goal to help develop solid families and enhanced opportunities for all youth to thrive in this region. Prior to coming to Multnomah County, he worked for the Oregon Department of Human Services, coordinating the Governor’s Child Welfare Racial Equity Task Force and the Casey Foundation’s Partnership with DHS to reduce disproportionality in foster care.
Kory came to Multnomah County in October 2013 to help Multnomah County roll out its Equity and Empowerment Lens and to make it accessible and meaningful to leaders and staff in all nine departments. He helped create learning materials and facilitated sensitive and productive conversations about structural racism and inequity. Throughout his work Kory has emphasized the importance of respectful, compassionate relationships. According to Human Resources Manager Wayne Scott, “Kory was initiating sensitive conversations that needed to happen at Multnomah County while our country was being torn apart by the effects of structural racism. Kory was fearless in pushing people—especially white guys like me—to confront real issues at home in a respectful and productive way, to see connections between national tragedies and the ways we treat each other in this community.”
Currently Kory works in the county’s Department of County Assets as a Workforce Equity Specialist, where he has gone where few men have gone before: creating an inclusive, diverse culture in Information Technology. Working with managers and directors, he has provided tools and skills to support leadership appreciation for the importance of how Diversity + Inclusion = Equity. His colleagues, many of whom supported his nomination for this award, praise him. According to Deputy CIO Bob Leek, “Kory has impressed upon me that I have implicit biases, that … are an influence on my leadership, and that in my role as a leader I have an obligation to intentionally address the lack of diversity typically found in IT organizations, including ours.”
Kory’s influence extends beyond his own department. He has worked on several key projects for the Multnomah County Library. He assisted in the development of Rockwood Makerspace’s safety agreements by applying Multnomah County’s Equity and Empowerment Lens and then facilitating a conversation with employees. According to Library HR Director Shelly Kent, “We valued his contribution to this process as it helped us frame how we were looking at safety and [also] barriers with regard to Rockwood’s very diverse community. He helped us take the conversation to another level, and his work has left a lasting impression…”
Kory met with the library’s Executive Management Team. He generously gave his time to help guide the work that needs to be done as the Library begins an organizational equity assessment. Kory helped the Library to realize that they needed their own Workforce Equity Manager to bring credibility and thoughtfulness to the work, a new position that was just hired. But there’s more.
Kory’s influence extends to other jurisdictions outside Multnomah County. His role and commitment to equity as a Multnomah County employee includes his involvement in the National League of Cities’ Black Male Achievement Initiative, which is aimed at improving the life outcomes of Black men and boys in the areas of: Education, Employment, Family Stability, and Criminal Justice. Kory’s frontline work on this initiative range from facilitating stakeholder sessions to joining others on the national stage to address today’s pressing issues facing black males in the region and across the country.
Because of his low-key style and humility, Kory tends to stay in the background and to listen and observe. But in fact he is a very fitting recipient of this award and deserves this high recognition. Kory follows in the tradition of Robert Phillips himself, who tirelessly navigated difficult conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the region, who brought everyone to the table, and who promoted deep change to make our communities more livable, accessible, and equitable.
Among the well deserving nominees:
Diane Avery, City of Portland
Dawniel Miller, Clark County Assessor’s Office
Rita Jimenez, Multnomah County Library
Dora Perry, City of Portland
David Cardona, Oregon Health Authority
Amalia Alarcon Morris, City of Portland
Betsy Ruef, City of Tigard
Portland Housing Bureau, City of Portland
Office of Equity and Partnerships, Portland Public Schools
Desiree Williams-Rajee, City of Portland
Reason for the Award
This award is named in recognition of Robert Phillips, Multnomah County Affirmative Action Officer, who has worked in the area of equal employment opportunity for over 25 years and has a long history of involvement in the civil rights field. As Director of Multnomah County’s Affirmative Action Office, Robert was responsible for the development of policy initiatives, plans and programs that promoted respectful work environments for diverse employees and assisted the organization in meeting its equal employment opportunity and affirmative action obligations. Additionally, Robert served as a commissioner for the Port of Portland’s Civil Service Commission where he has served for 10 years. His community service includes appointments to the Nike Corporation’s Minority Affairs Advisory Board; Gubernatorial appointments to the State Commission on Black Affairs and the State Board to Register Clinical Social Workers; and service on the Oregon State Bar Affirmative Action Committee.
In 1996, the diversity program he managed for the City of Portland was recognized as a best practice model by People Management Resources, a division of Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Robert was also responsible for initiating the first national conference on performance measures for diversity programs, sponsored by the National Quality Institute. In addition, Robert was a recipient of the 2009 Arthur Flemming Award by the Multnomah County Managers of Color, the Oregon assembly for Black Affairs Political Development Award, the Northwest Conference of Black Elected Officials Leadership Award and the 2009 Northwest Public Employees Diversity Conference Robert Phillips Regional Diversity Award. He was the first public sector African American graduate of the Center of Creative Leadership’s African American Leadership Program.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners proclaimed February 28, 2012, as Robert Phillips Appreciation Day in Multnomah County, Oregon. In retirement from Multnomah County, Robert has an encore career during which he will serve as a member of the NW Renal Patients Advisory Board; the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs Political Convention Planning Committee and the Port of Portland Fire Department Civil Service Board.
This award was created to honor his many contributions in the field of equity for all.
2015 – City of Portland, Procurement Services: 2015 Award Insert
2014 – Victoria Cross: 2014 Award Insert
2013 – Carole Smith: 2013 Award Insert
2012 – Loretta Young: 2012 Award Insert
2011 – Donny Adair: 2011 Award Insert
2010 – Vera Pool: 2010 Award Insert
2009 – Robert Phillips: 2009 Award Insert