Hayward Horton was elected chairman of the town Task Force on Racial Equity and Justice during its meeting Tuesday.
The 18-year Niskayuna resident is the director of the Capital Region Antiracism Training Initiative’s Allyship Institute with a doctorate in sociology.
“Dr. Horton is a skilled leader, educator, and community development expert,” said Town Board member John Della Ratta. “I know I speak for the entire Town Board when I say I am looking forward to working with him and the task force in the year ahead and thank him for his willingness to serve our community in this new role.”
Dale Black-Pennington was the previous chairperson. She had to step down from the task force for personal reasons, Horton said.
Horton joined the task force when it began in 2020.
“No matter where you live I think you have a responsibility to use your time and your talents to try and make where you live a better place, so it can be inclusive to everyone,” he said. “It is because of my own commitment to social justice that I felt that this was a good thing to do and a good way to invest my time.”
The 15-member panel is made up of residents, selected by the Town Board, whose purpose is to review “town policies, procedures, practices, and services to identify racial disparities, recommend means to address those disparities, and provide a vehicle for ongoing dialogue to address racism and justice issues,” states the town website.
Horton said his commitment to community development and outreach goes back to when he was studying for his undergraduate degree at Norfolk University in Virginia.
Being part of the task force is just another extension of that dedication to change and inclusivity, he said.
Horton said his experience leading and background as a sociologist helps him see a bigger picture on topics the task force may discuss.
“So oftentimes it’s easy to get caught up in the process that individuals find themselves focusing on the tree as opposed to the forest,” he said.
Horton said he isn’t just focused on racial equality with the task force, but also inclusivity for everyone.
While he does want to discuss the police reform recommendations, he also wants to look into access to Town Hall for people who are visually impaired, he said.
“There’s a need to make sure all persons irrespective of their background and/or perhaps physical limitations have access to public services,” he said.
Horton said he also wants to maintain the ability for comments during the meetings.
“The beautiful thing about our meetings is that we run them in such a way that there’s always time for someone to bring something to the floor,” he said.
Ketaki “Kay” Bodhankar was named vice chairwoman. She could not be reached for comment.
The task force also welcomed four new members at its meeting. They are Hayden Connors, Cobra Cox, Jocelyn McKinney and Sabrina Seeger.
Horton said the task force meetings are open to the public.