The St. Charles Human Relations Committee was created by Ordinance #08-126 on June 18, 2008. Its formation was sparked by an incident in late 2007 which illustrated the need for the City of St. Charles to provide the Community with support when they faced unfair discrimination that infringed upon their Civil Rights.
The incident was said to have involved someone who posted an anti-immigrant yard sign which was interpreted as him suggesting that his neighbor didn’t belong in St. Charles. The individual’s neighbor was the president and CEO of a St Charles City business. It is believed that incident was followed by the two neighbors exchanging words and the business owner reporting the action to the local news, as harassment near his home in St. Charles.
Sometime later, the business owner shared that at the time, he could not find a department in City Government to which he could take his complaint and get a satisfactory response. Eventually, he reported the incident to members of the U.S. Attorneys Hate Crimes Task Force for Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.
Mary Harrison had been attending that group’s meetings, as the representative of a community organization begun in 2001, the St. Charles County Bridge Builders. Bridge Builders reached out and offered support to people targeted by hate crimes or discrimination, and also worked to build relationships among people of all races, ethnicities, religions, or sexual orientation. Among the other regular attendees of those meeting, was Bill Whitcomb, then the regional representative for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service. The Community Relations Commission was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to aid communities in resolving disputes relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin. Mr. Whitcomb had already helped numerous cities establish human rights or human relations commissions, sometimes in response to a crisis, but other times to build relationships that would help prevent conflicts related to civil rights from occurring or escalating.
Mr. Whitcomb reached out to then Mayor Patti York to share the general idea, and worked with Mary Harrison to identify residents in St. Charles who would be interested in getting such a commission started. An interested and diverse group held an exploratory Human Relations Commission (HRC) meeting on Nov. 29, 2007, with Mr. Whitcomb in attendance to share his thoughts and ideas regarding establishing a Commission. Afterwards, a meeting was organized on with the Mayor on Jan. 15, 2008 to discuss what an HRC could do and what benefits it could provide.
The exploratory committee drafted a City of St. Charles Human Relations Commission ordinance and on April 28, 2008, met with the Mayor and Councilperson Laurie Feldman to review. Minor revisions were made and the ordinance was introduced to the City Council at the June 3, 2008 meeting. It was sponsored by Councilperson Laurie Feldman with Councilperson Richard Veit as the co-sponsor. Bill 9674 was approved on June 18, 2008 and the first official meeting was held on Oct. 2, 2008. The original officers were: Pamela Coaxum Chair, Pat Porterfield Vice-Chair, and Mary Harrison Secretary.
On October 2, 2018 the Human Relations Commission celebrated its 10th anniversary by proclamation of Mayor Sally Faith. Former and current Commissions gathered to recognize the progress made over the years. Include the photos at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/162202385@N05/albums/72157696165343020/with/44356667964/
The Human Relation’s Commission wishes to thank Mary Harrison for her memories as shared in “The Founding of the Human Relations Commission in St. Charles, Missouri”, dated April 10,2018, upon which this history was based.