"My trajectory is to bring people together, support their decision-making, support their agency, and realize possibilities that no one could imagine if they would go out there and just problem solve it."- Tom Wahlrab, former director of Dayton Human Relations Council
Tom Wahlrab, Executive Director of Dayton Ohio's Human Relations Council (HRC), was aware of the challenges immigrants faced building a life in a new country and noticed that many of Dayton's immigrants, when faced with housing discrimination, did not submit civil rights claims.
career building consensus in the fields of transformative mediation and organizational development.
He participated in civic engagement initiatives as a mediator, in both a professional and a personal capacity, before being appointed by the City Commissioner to the Human Relations Council, the civil rights agency of the city administration.
Drawing on his
background in bringing people together, Tom
designed and facilitated the community meetings that resulted in Welcome Dayton
During his professional career, Tom advocated for marginalized groups, working with businesses and governmental organizations as a mediator within the field of organizational development and workplace team development.
He has worked with communities and the government as a civic engagement professional, a mediator in professional and volunteer roles, and as the Executive Director of the city's Human Relations Council, responsible for protecting and promoting civil rights in the city.
has also worked on issues including affirmative action and contract compliance, which straddle the sectors of business, government and the community.
Now retired, he
continues to support conflict resolution in the immigrant community through the Dayton Community Business Conversation, where members of the community can present issues in a private and confidential setting.
efforts to build consensus among conflicting factions has taught him the different interests within various sectors, while creating personal connections in the Dayton metro area.
Tom's work as both a mediator and a government appointee allowed him to design the initial phase of the Welcome Dayton Initiative as a community conversation led by a government organization, rather than as a top-down government initiative.
Prior to Welcome Dayton, Tom trained in mediation with Baruch Bush and Joe Folger, the founders of the transformative mediation model, and organizational development and civic engagement from Peter Block, an expert in community building and organizational management.
communication skills to prioritize collaboration, patience, receptiveness, and the human need for autonomy and community.
style promotes self-organizing, connectivity, and ownership of issues by the community.
made it a point to invite friends and colleagues from various social groups to the trainings to strengthen the mediation and civic engagement principles among members of different community groups.
role as the Director of the Dayton Mediation Center
and the Human Relations Council
civic engagement work, Tom
established himself as a problem solver within government agencies, the business community, and among community leaders, and social service providers.
developed connections with a range of parties involved in immigrant issues, from the police force to representatives of the various immigrant communities.
sent an organizing statement to his
network of contacts, asking them to invite anyone they thought would be interested, which attracted about 150 people to the conversations that resulted in the Welcome Dayton plan.
has practiced transformative mediation for over 20 years, working on issues ranging from affirmative action and civil rights to contract compliance.
This skill set helped him unite many individuals from various social strata and sectors to discuss immigrant contributions and issues in the community.
The Welcome Dayton Plan was written through a series of conversations held in 2011 that eschewed hierarchical structures and speeches in favor of conversations where people felt recognized and on equal footing, regardless of their position in society.
imagined the Welcome Dayton conversations would be an environment where people could have a discussion rather than hear a speech.
and others wanted to shift away from the national discussion about immigration, which was dominated by negative perspectives, focusing on illegality and economic threats.
continues to mediate within the immigrant community through the Dayton Community Business Conversation.