Jefferson County Gets New Human Resources Director, Raising Hopes for Lifting Consent Decree on Personnel Practices


JeffCo Human Resources Director Caroline Brown.

Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight offered a predictable straight line after Caroline Brown was introduced as Jefferson County’s new human resource director at Tuesday’s commission committee meeting.

“Can you get us a good deal on a Toyota?” Knight asked, referring to her long tenure with the automaker.

“Not anymore,” the Montgomery native said as the boardroom burst into laughter. “Not anymore.”

While Brown can’t provide the hook-up for a fleet of motor vehicles, county manager Tony Petelos calls her “the missing link” in the county’s efforts to escape from the consent decree on personnel practices with which it has dealt for nearly 40 years.

“We have to have a strong director,” Petelos said. “We have to have a director, first of all. Not only do we have a director, we have a director who is process-driven, one who understands processes, one who understands how important training is for our supervisors and employees.”

The county has been under the consent decree since 1982, after plaintiffs sued alleging that the county and other defendants had been discriminating based on race and sex with respect to recruitment, hiring, assignment, promotion, discipline and other terms and conditions of employment.

Brown’s voice was a bit raspy, as she had a slight cold. But her enthusiasm to have returned to her native state was evident.

“I’m really happy to be back here,” she said. “The last time I was here, I was not an adult. I was at Tuskegee University. I’ve been at different companies since then. I’m just really looking forward to working with all of you and serving the residents of Jefferson County.”

Brown earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Tuskegee and a master’s in business administration from Indiana University. She spent the past 14 years at Toyota Motors North America (formerly Toyota Motor Sales) in various roles. Most recently, she served as the director of the Academy of Learning Technology.

Brown served as a diversity and inclusion champion at Toyota and spearheaded its first three Innovation Fairs. She was invited and installed on the board of trustees for Goodwill of Southern Los Angeles County in 2014. She worked on its workforce planning committee before relocating to Dallas, Texas.

Brown is a certified project management professional from the Project Management Institute and recently passed the Society of Human Resources senior certified professional certification exam.

Petelos said the county’s new HR director was over equity inclusion at Toyota.

That’s a “very big deal in Jefferson County because of the consent decree,” he said. “Also, she has a good background in the area of training. With all the new employees coming in, we need to be training them and set down processes.

“She’s process-driven. That’s what we need, to have an HR department that is very thorough, that has a process to get things done in a timely manner,” the county manager continued. “Throughout the past several years, we’ve been building the HR department, making it stronger, better. With the consent decree, we’re limited in what we can and can’t do.”

Petelos said Brown is coming in at a perfect time for the county as it nears a possible exit from the consent decree. The county’s next status update is coming in a few months.

“We’re very excited about this in that she brings the talent that we need the most at this point in time in the county,” he said.

Environmental Groups Protest New Waters of the US Rule

Environmental groups in Alabama and elsewhere say they will fight to delay or stop a new federal rule that would remove the 1972 Clean Water Act’s oversight of half the nation’s wetlands and many small streams.

JeffCo Commission Approves Fees for Credit, Debit Card Payments to Revenue Department

The Jefferson County Revenue’s Office will now apply a 1% convenience fee on debit and card payments after passing with unanimous consent on Thursday.

Birmingham Council Reallocates Unused CrossPlex Funds to Repave Roads, Under Protest

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to reallocate money from a completed capital project at the Birmingham CrossPlex to citywide road repaving, rebuffing the protests of District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, who called the proposal “unfair.”

Alabama Representatives Flip Votes on Two Measures Involving Cleanup of PFAS Pollution

Alabama’s representatives in the U.S. House flipped votes on two issues last week concerning regulation of PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to cancer. These chemicals have been found in drinking water and land in northern Alabama.

Jefferson County Commission Delays Vote on Fee for Card Payments

The Jefferson County chief financial officer says discussion about a 1% debit and credit card convenience fee should be tabled for another two weeks.