City of Topeka names first Chief DEI Officer, develops DEI office

City Manager Stephen Wade announced Monday that Ernestor De La Rosa was selected to serve as the City of Topeka’s very first Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer. De La Rosa will start in January 2023 and will lead the city’s newly created DEI office.

“I’m thrilled that Ernestor will be our first Chief DEI Officer. This role will truly impact lives in our community, and affect local government policies,” said Wade. “It’s extremely important that we ensure a work environment and community where all have an opportunity to succeed. Ernestor is up to the task, and I look forward to welcoming him to Topeka, and supporting his work for years to come.”

“The idea of DEI has been talked about, and in many ways initiated in America, but for Topeka, this is the first official step by our local government to place DEI at the forefront of all we do. This speaks volumes about the Governing Body and its willingness to embrace the many possibilities active DEI can bring to the City of Topeka,” said Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla. “Ernestor has a strong background in practicing DEI as a government official. I’m excited that he will bring those experiences to Topeka, and help us grow as a community.”

De La Rosa comes to Topeka from the City of Dodge City, KS, where he’s served a variety of roles over the last eight years, including Assistant City Manager, Human Resources Director, Assistant Finance Director, Mobility Manager, and more. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from Wichita State University, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fort Hays State University.

De La Rosa, who’s first language is Spanish, was born and raised in Mexico, and immigrated to the United States at 12. He’s a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, and is passionate about working in the immigration realm. He’s served on various community boards.

“I am honored and excited to join the City of Topeka. I look forward to working with the Governing Body, city staff and Topeka residents to develop, adopt and implement proactive diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies in all aspects of the city,” said De La Rosa. “I commend city leadership’s commitment to building a robust diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce and community. Topeka is stronger together.”

De La Rosa will also serve as the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, where he will work alongside the ADA Advisory Council to make Topeka a safer, more accessible community.

Additionally, Wade announced that Topeka Police Lieutenant Manuel Munoz is serving a special assignment as the city’s Deputy Director of DEI. Munoz, who also immigrated from Mexico, has served the Topeka community as a police officer for more than 30 years. Munoz will continue serving as TPD’s Public Information Officer.

Both De La Rosa and Munoz will be housed out of City Hall. Additional information on how to connect with the city’s DEI office will come out early 2023.