A closer look at race and diversity in La Crosse County

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:30:45 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 21 2013 10:51:47 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

La Crosse County's minority population is growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the minority population has grown from 6.3% to 9.1% in the last decade.

However, some say that hasn't necessarily translated to more diversity.

"Diversity to me is not just an event but it should be a lifestyle," said Pastor David Smith, who leads the Empowered Life Worship Center in La Crosse.

Smith, an African American, says he's seen the area's minority population grow since he moved his family to La Crosse about 15 years ago. Yet, there isn't a single person of color serving right now in a high-profile public position, including the entire La Crosse Common Council and La Crosse County Board.

"We need people of color to participate in decision making. Whether it's in the hiring process or our local governments," said Smith.

Smith says having more minority police officers, teachers, and business owners would be more reflective of the community's make-up.

"I would like to see more of that. And I'm not just talking about African Americans," he added.

"The most important thing to think about with Dr. King and his work is the progress we've made. There was a time in our not-too distant past when we had different water fountains," said Julian Bradley, the biracial chair of the La Crosse County Republican Party.

When Bradley was elected, he became the first black GOP county chairman in state history. While he expects to see more minorities elected to local government in coming years, he's not overly concerned with the current lack of representation.

"What I've found in my experience in that if you think like that a lot, you get caught up in it.  I'm not willing to....be caught up in the fact that I don't see a lot of other people that look like me in positions of power in this area," he said.

Both Bradley and Smith agree there is still more work to be done. They do, however, say things are heading in the right direction.

" It's going to take some time for people of color to integrate with the larger population. It takes time," said Smith.