Marisa Hattab

When Marisa Hattab moved to Omaha, her husband’s employer at Offutt Air Force Base gave her a clear piece of advice. Don’t live in North Omaha.

“They didn’t tell us that’s where the Black people live, but they were like ‘That’s where crime is’ and ‘You can’t walk by yourself there,'” Hattab, who is Black, remembered being told in 2016. “And if we wanted to live there we’d need get permission.”

Hattab, who became Douglas County’s first diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the start of 2022, wasn’t surprised that Omaha was segregated. But she was surprised just how fractured the city felt and dedicated her professional career here to addressing inequity.

Now Hattab has a chance to make serious change. But what is her position with the county’s supposed to look like? Is she evaluating the current system or trying to build a new one from the ground up. That’s for Hattab to find out.

In this conversation with news editor Chris Bowling, Hattab talked about true community engagement, leading with a collective vision and how her history in promoting diversity can inform her new county-wide purview.

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Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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