Human Relations Commission (HRC)

The Topeka Human Relations Commission (THRC) is a nine member Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council. The mission of the THRC is to conduct outreach and educational activities that promote justice and cultural understanding and improve relationships among all citizens of Topeka.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Human Relations Commission is to conduct outreach and educational activities that promote justice and cultural understanding, and improve relationships among all people of the City of Topeka.

Vision Statement

The Topeka Human Relations Commission is the key educational and services connecting resource for the city to its people to help eradicate inequality, provide cultural education and create a diverse, accepting community that assists, adapts to and upholds every member in its midst with fairness, kindness and a path to a stable and prosperous future.

Annual Report

2022 Annual Report


The HRC normally meets on the 2nd Monday of each month from 5:30pm to 7:00pm in the 1st floor conference room of City Hall, 215 SE 7th Street. Please check the public calendar for upcoming meetings.


The Topeka Human Relations Commission shall consist of nine members to be drawn from individuals with disabilities and from diverse gender, racial, ethnic, commercial, and industrial segments of the community. The commissioners shall reside within the corporate limits of the city. The commissioners shall be appointed by the mayor from council nominations, and such appointments shall be confirmed by the council.

Apply to be a commissioner

Assisted governing body on City of Topeka non-discrimination ordinance update – Ordinance 20276

The Topeka HRC promotes community participation in completion of the Public Input forms created by the Public Health & Safety Committee’s Changing our Culture of Property Maintenance series. Input is sought as it pertains to substandard properties, vacant properties, overgrowth, trash, and overall ways for changing the culture of the community as it relates to Property Maintenance. Please select the link for additional information on this initiative.
Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia
The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020), held that the broader category of “sex” set out in Title VII includes discrimination based on LGBTQ and all derivatives of “sex.” As such, the Kansas Human Relations Commission (KHRC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are accepting and investigating complaints related to discrimination based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and individuals who wish to file a complaint may do so through the KHRC; the EEOC; or through administrative processes provided by other state and federal laws.

Individuals with a concern or complaint of discrimination based on LGBTQ status should contact the KHRC or EEOC at:
Kansas Human Rights Commission
(888) 793-6874 (toll free)

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(800) 669-4000


Current Commissioners

Group photo of HRC commissioners

Photo of Carmen Romero-Nichols
Carmen Romero-Nichols joined the Human Resource Commission in May 2022.She is originally from Mexico City, though Topeka has been her home for the majority of her life.
Carmen moved to Kansas with her family over 20 years ago. She graduated from Topeka High School, received her undergrad from Washburn University, and an MBA from Baker University.
The City of Topeka as well as the State of Kansas hold a special meaning to Carmen. She understands the importance of being involved in the community and decided to get involved in being a part of shaping our community for her two daughters.
Photo of Carol Roberts
Carol Roberts was born and raised in Topeka. She is a wife, mother to seven children and grandmother to six grandchildren. Carol attended elementary through high school in the Seaman School District. Upon graduation from high school she attended Washburn University where she graduated in 1988 with a degree in court and conference reporting. Carol has been a freelance court reporter, worked in the Johnson County District Courts as an official reporter and now owns a transcription company that serves law enforcement agencies, courts and a variety of other clients. Carol also owns a health and wellness business dedicated to the science and study of nutrition and genetic expression with regard to the prevention or treatment of disease.
Carol has served in various capacities in city and community groups such as the Law Enforcement Partnership Panel established under Police Chief Ron Miller. She has served also in Kansans for Life as well as been involved in radio and newspaper ministries. She is active in her church and serves in several roles there. Carol is involved with Trash Mountain Project which serves people living in trash dump communities worldwide. Carol is passionate about her faith and encouraging others. She believes that all lives are precious and every human should be treated with dignity and respect.
Photo of Luc Bensimon
I am a 48 year old man of Trans experience born and raised in Topeka, Kansas. I was born with 3 strikes against me being assigned female at birth, being Afro-American and born with a disability all of which I have been discriminated against in different areas of my life. I have two degrees in Human Services youth and children emphasis and a BA in Criminal Justice. I wear a few different hats when it comes to activism. I am the current president and one of the founding members of Kansas statewide transgender education project (K.S.T.E.P), current chairperson of Equality Kansas Topeka chapter, and the president of Capital city equality center (The Mott House), the president and founder of the Black Transmen Inc. Kansas chapter (BTMI Kansas). Mr. Black Trans Kansas 2019-2020, ward captain and ward 1 precinct 3 precinct committee Man I am an activist for the LGBT community but my true passion Trans people of color.
Photo of Cynthia Hopp
Cynthia Hopp has been a teacher for the Topeka public school system since 2013 and has been teaching for the last ten years. She recently graduated with a Masters of Educational Leadership at Kansas State University.
Cynthia is a member of the Minority Leadership Academy and a Kagan Cooperative Learning instructional coach. After school hours, she serves at the Woman’s Foundation and is also a Human Relations Commissioner for the city of Topeka.
With an evident passion for education and volunteering, Cynthia enjoys helping people achieve their goals.
Cynthia is married to Kevin Hopp and is the mother of two children, Mikaela and Mauricio. In her spare time, she enjoys learning how to play the cello, meditating, and doing yoga.
Photo of Pamela James
Pamela James first moved to Topeka in 2010. She was born and raised in a small town about 4hours from Topeka, Hutchinson, Kansas. She graduated from University of Phoenix in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Business and General Management.
Pamela has been a State of Kansas employee for several years and is passionate about helping people and her community become the best that it can be. She is an active member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and has become a member of the Human Relations Committee in her pursuit to continue helping others.
Photo of Marisol Marcelo
Marisol Estrella Marcelo is a distinguished professional dedicated to making a difference in her beloved Topeka community. Though not native to Topeka, she has embraced it as her home and actively contributes to its vibrancy. Marisol's educational journey has been diverse, spanning studies in Music Education, Mortuary Science, and culminating in her recent graduation in Marketing and Business Administration.

Marisol's involvement in community-building extends to various organizations, including her role as a graduate of the Leadership Greater Topeka Class of 2023. She also serves as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is an engaged member of Mana De Topeka. Her dedication is further exemplified through her active participation in the Kansas Funeral Director Association, her volunteer work with Hospice, and her commitment to Fiesta Topeka. Additionally, Marisol is engaged in her church community.

She is an advocate for supporting local businesses and charities, reflecting her unwavering commitment to the betterment of her community. In her role as Director of Marketing, Public Relations, and Preplanning Specialist at Brennan-Mathena Funeral Home, Marisol's compassion and dedication shine through as she guides and supports families during their most challenging moments, helping them honor and celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Her mission is deeply rooted in her faith and a commitment to personal growth, striving daily to be the best version of herself and making a positive impact in her community.
Photo of Alexis Simmons
Alexis Simmons is a graduate of Washburn University (Go Bods!) where she majored in political science and served as student body president. After graduating from Washburn, she obtained a masters degree in American politics and government from American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.
While in D.C. Alexis helped train women to run for office and wrote a weekly newsletter about women in politics for the Women & Politics Institute. After joining a boutique consulting firm, Alexis and a small team advised Fortune 500 companies on creation and implementation of forward-thinking, socially responsible policies.
After moving back to Topeka in 2020, Alexis returned to work where her love for public service started: the Kansas Legislature. She serves as the Communications Director for Vic Miller, Kansas House Minority Leader, and the Kansas House Democrats. As a former intern, her favorite part of the job is helping coordinate the internship program for the House of Representatives.
Alexis is a graduate of the 2021-2022 Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders program, Democratic precinct committeewoman, EMILY’s List Ignite Change Fellow, National Organization of Women (NOW) scholarship recipient, Bryce Harlow Foundation honoree, and adjunct professor in Washburn University’s political science department.
Photo of Zachary Surritt
Zachary Surritt is a native of the Greater Topeka area. Born in Topeka, raised in Meriden, and has lived in the Capitol City since he started his college career in 2015. Zachary graduated from Washburn University with his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration in 2020. While at Washburn, he served as a leader in a number of student organizations, including a term as the Student Body President in 2018-2019. Zachary has also served as a City Council member for the City of Meriden and is the current Chair-Elect of Forge Young Talent where he is dedicated to making Topeka and Shawnee County a place where young people want to live, work, play, and belong. Zachary is also the Business Development and Marketing Director for R&S Maintenance Services, of which he is part of the third generation of family leadership. Zachary has a passion for public service and looks forward to working with our community to create an environment for positive change.

Troy Scroggins Award

The Troy Scroggins Awards are presented to deserving individuals and organizations for their efforts in furthering the HRC’s mission, which is “to ensure fair and equal rights to all citizens of Topeka.” The HRC Troy Scroggins Award recognizes outstanding achievements in ameliorating discrimination and prejudice based on race, sex, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, and sexual orientation and advancing diversity in the city of Topeka.
The first Troy Scroggins Award honoree was the award’s namesake, Troy Scroggins. It is Mr. Scroggins achievements in addressing discrimination and prejudice and advancing diversity that this city should recognize as examples of how to treat all of its citizens and to uphold this city’s commitment to equal rights as exemplified by Brown v. Board of Education.
There are two categories recognized:
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement: Awarded to an individual whose efforts at ameliorating discrimination and prejudice and advancing diversity in Topeka are outstanding, singular and noteworthy. Honorees do not have to be Topeka residents. The honoree may be of any age.
  • Outstanding Organizational Achievement: Awarded to an organization in Topeka or Shawnee County whose efforts at ameliorating discrimination and prejudice and advancing diversity in Topeka are outstanding, singular and noteworthy. Honorees must have business offices in Topeka, but may be headquartered elsewhere.
Presentation of Awards: The awards will be presented at the City of Topeka Governing Body meetings.

Nominations may be made by anyone who lives in the city of Topeka. One person or entity may nominate multiple people or organizations. THRC board members may nominate an entity for which they work or with which they are affiliated, but must recuse themselves from voting on that entity. HRC board and staff members are not eligible to be nominated, nor is the agency eligible to be nominated.

To nominate, please fill out the Troy Scroggins nomination form.
  • 2021
    • Individuals: Carla Pratt
    • Organization: Omni Circle Group
  • 2020
    • Individuals: Marrietta Patterson
    • Organization: New Mount Zion Baptist Church Outreach Ministry
  • 2019
    • Individuals: Chris Omni, Edith Gaines, Larry Robbins
    • Organization: Kansas Children’s Discovery Center
  • 2018
    • Individual: Martinez Hillard
  • 2017
    • Individuals: Annette Hope Billings, Dennis Etzel Jr., Officer Timothy Bell
  • 2015
    • Individual: Dr. Sharon Sullivan
    • Organization: The Green Gals
  • 2014
    • Individual: Jeremy Beard
    • Organization: Topeka Public Schools Equity Council
  • 2013
    • Organization: Girls on the Run Topeka YWCA
  • 2012
    • Individuals: Garry Cushinberry, U.S Attorney Barry Grissom District of Kansas
  • 2011
    • Individuals: Brian Peters, Demarus Kelley, Barry R. Grissom,
    • Organizations: Community First, CASA of Shawnee County, Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Topeka
  • 2010
    • Individual: Eric Johnson
  • 2009
    • Organizations: YWCA R.A.C.E Committee, Living the Dream, Inc.
  • 2008
    • Individuals: CE Sonny Scroggins, Jane Brown

Stephanie Mott Award

The Stephanie Mott Award recognizes people living in Shawnee County who have helped the Topeka Human Relations Commission (THRC) accomplish its mission by exemplifying the work of Stephanie Mott, which is advocating for the disenfranchised and the less fortunate, and giving a voice to the voiceless.
Stephanie was born December 31, 1957, in Lawrence, KS. She graduated from Eudora High School in 1975, earned an Associate Degree of Human Services Management from the University of Phoenix in 2010, a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Washburn University in 2014, a Master of Social Work from Washburn University in 2016, and her certification as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2019.

Stephanie was involved in many social justice causes, but most of her life’s work focused on LGBTQ+ advocacy. She founded the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project (KSTEP) in 2010 and later her Transgender Faith Tour, traveling across the nation to tell her story and talk about her faith in churches, large and small. Stephanie was on the advisory board of the local Beacon Youth Group. She served as chair, vice-chair and other positions for Equality Kansas; both the state organization and the local Topeka chapter. At the time she chaired Equality Kansas, she was the only transgender leader of a statewide equality organization in the U.S. She helped revive the Topeka Pride celebration and served as the first president of Topeka Pride, Inc. Stephanie helped create and was the president of the board for Capitol City Equality Center in Topeka. She served on the Topeka Human Relations Commission and was an inaugural member of the Topeka Police Department Citizens Advisory Council. Stephanie also formed the Topeka chapter of the National Organization for Women and was supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nominations may be made by anyone who lives in Shawnee County. THRC board members may nominate an individual.

Nominations for an individual are due by May 1st each year.

The THRC will review all award nominations and select one person who best exemplifies Stephanie Mott’s legacy. The awards will be presented at the City of Topeka Governing Body meetings and press releases will be issued to media outlets.

To nominate, please fill out the Stephanie Mott nomination form.
  • 2021: Michelle De La Isla