Ask the Expert: Shawanna Rodgers, City of Conway Diversity & Economic Development

City of Conway Diversity & Economic Development

Shawanna Rodgers, Coordinator Shawanna Rodgers was named diversity and economic development coordinator for the City of Conway in September 2019. In this newly created position, Shawanna develops and implements programs and initiatives that promote diversity and economic growth in the Conway community and in city government. We talked to Shawanna about her role as a community liaison and what she hopes to accomplish. 

As diversity and economic development coordinator for the City of Conway, one of your first priorities was to encourage residents to respond to the 2020 Census. In what ways did leading this effort help identify some of the issues and opportunities your newly created position could champion? 

SHAWANNA: A few identified areas of need arose, such as awareness, education, and engagement with the community. When most people think of the census, they think of a city’s population. However, there is so much more connected to the census than that number we see on a road sign. Funding for health care, streets, education, and recreation (just to name a few) are all directly connected to the census and how much federal funding the City of Conway receives to fund these programs within our local community. 

Tell us about the role diversity plays in economic development.  

SHAWANNA: Diversity plays a significant role in economic development in any community. Conway takes pride in being known as the City of Colleges. Therefore, diversity is necessary! The goal is to have job opportunities available for those coming out of college to keep them right here in our city. As the economy within the city grows, ideally it reflects the community where you live. Job creation and streamlining the process for small business and entrepreneurs help achieve that goal.  

What are your goals for diversity and economic development in city government?  

SHAWANNA: Before change can happen, it is imperative that we evaluate what’s already in place. Surveying the community helps gain insight into the areas of need while giving our citizens an opportunity to be heard and assist in the plan. Education is another goal. “Just Talk,” a mini-series that airs on the City of Conway’s Diversity & Economic Development Facebook page, is just one way we plan to inform citizens on what is currently going on in city government. We also want to create additional ways for citizens to be actively involved. 

In addition to voting in local elections, how else can Conway residents get more involved in the issues they care about? 

SHAWANNA: We strongly encourage citizens to get involved in City boards and commissions. We have several active boards and commissions made up of local citizens from the Conway community. Every year on October 1, boards and commissions accept applications to fill any open board positions. In 2020, we created the first-of-its-kind Diversity Advisory Council to bring a new and evolving aspect of engagement within the city. I am excited about this board and am looking forward to the impact it will have in the city. 

What do you think people would be most surprised to learn about city government?  

SHAWANNA: Oftentimes, people expect an immediate change in city government, but there is a process that takes time. However, I can say we are diligently working. Although all things are not immediate, we are progressively moving forward. 

To learn more about diversity and economic development at the City of Conway, visit or call 501-450-6110. You can also like or follow the City of Conway Diversity & Economic Development page on Facebook

This article first appeared in the 2021 Conway+ Community Profile & Resource Guide

Headshot - Shawanna Rodgers

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