Two Broward County employees whose hard work inspires many
One of the most watched sitcoms of the last decade makes light of the day to day lives of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.
In Broward County, things work a little differently. From elected officials to urban planners and County Administration, according to Broward County’s LinkedIn, there are over 6,000 employees.
Two Broward County employees of color have learned how to overcome adversity to get where they are today.
Natural Resource Administrator Monica Pognon oversees the county’s entire Air Quality Program. She is a University of Denver graduate with her bachelors in biological sciences and public affairs and master’s in environmental management and policy, which elevated her to her current position.
The university had many social issues, its lack of racial diversity being a big opportunity. With many encouraging professors and a support system, she was pushed to think outside of the box and developed intellectually, spiritually and politically.
For many years, she interned with the Coors Brewing company and acquired enough skills to work full-time for their quality control/assurance laboratory.
After a relocation to Broward County, Florida Pognon was hired with Broward County’s Air Quality Division in 2000, a time where according to Pognon, there were not too many women of color working in her field.
Over the last 20 years, however, the workplace dynamic began to shift encouraging more racial diversity.
Pognon had her first promotion in the County in 2006 to Natural Resource Specialist III, supervising the Ambient Air Monitoring Section within the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2015, she saw another promotion, this time to Natural Resource Section Manager, and again two years later to Natural Resource Administrator, her current position where she coordinates changes in federal and state air quality regulations as they are frequently updated.
“Promotions were never a given, they were earned,” Pognon said.
With every step up the ladder came more and more responsibility. She learned how to find courage to take constructive criticism from peers and managers.
“Education never stops… to advance in this world, you need to learn from your peers, your parents and professors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask for help,” she advises students of color pursuing higher education.
The next Broward County employee got his higher education started here at Broward College in the early 1990’s studying Construction Management and Architecture. After working a few years in the private sector, Gerald Henry began an internship with Broward County’s Code and Zoning Enforcement Division while he attended Florida Atlantic University part-time to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Since his transition into Code Enforcement Supervisor, he has become responsible for performing and ensuring compliance to community and housing standards, and zoning ordinances which determines if a section of land can be used residentially, industrially or commercially.
He is the one you call when a building is not “to code.” Even after applying for a full-time inspector’s position though, Henry continued pursuing certifications that allowed him to move up to higher positions.
For students of color struggling with education accessibility, such as access to Wi-Fi or to a computer to write up assignments and pursuing a career, Henry encourages you to develop both inside and outside of the classroom and work; take advantage of networking. Every interaction is an opportunity to further your life, whether it is volunteering, joining a leadership program or interning with a company in your field.
What helped him significantly was surrounding himself with positive people who had more experience than he did. Henry was constantly keeping up to date with his field of study as safety standards are often changing. He is now also an Expert Author on EzineArticles.com where he writes about many code enforcement cases he has dealt with in the past.
Both Broward County employees deserve recognition and celebration for their continued hard work behind closed doors. As we continue moving forward in municipal government more and more opportunities become available to people of color who did not have the privilege to move up and achieve these ranks.
Pognon and Henry are two of many black employees who have contributed to the dynamic change Broward County has seen over the last 20 years. They inspire young black students to persevere and own their course in life.
Thank you to Broward County employees who have not stopped working since the pandemic began, we appreciate the risk you take and the work you do.