Zeriah Folston hired as City of Gainesville Interim Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director

Zeriah Folston speaks to the City Commission on September 2, 2021


An employment agreement for Zeriah Folston as the City of Gainesville Interim Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director was included in the consent agenda for the Gainesville City Commission’s September 2 meeting. It is common to include a candidate’s resume and other documents that are considered during a hiring process on the consent agenda, but only the employment agreement was included.

Folston previously worked as the Policy Oversight Administrator at the City, and he replaces Acting Director Sylvia Warren, who was previously the Equal Opportunity Manager. When Former Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Teneeshia Marshall resigned in May, commissioners said they expected the Interim Director to be in the position for some time because they want to develop a community engagement process for hiring a permanent Director.

The interim position pays $142,158.00 plus a $450/month car allowance and standard benefits. Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos objected to the car allowance because he doesn’t think the City should promote personal car use, but he didn’t request that the item be pulled from the consent agenda. During public comment on the consent agenda, Nathan Skop requested that the item be pulled from the consent agenda to discuss Folston’s employment agreement, but no motion was made to do that. The vote to pass the consent agenda failed, causing Mayor Lauren Poe to immediately call a 5-minute recess. When the commissioners returned, they made a few changes to the consent agenda but did not pull Folston’s contract from the consent agenda. The modified consent agenda passed 5-1, with Hayes-Santos in dissent.

Just three days before Marshall submitted her resignation, the Commission voted to give her a raise of $56,500, which took her salary from $131,950.45 to $167,700 with back pay from January 2021. So Folston is starting at a higher salary than Marshall had for most of her time with the City. The City’s minimum pay for that position is $129,000.