As Don Logan reflects on his career as Scottsdale’s first diversity and dialogue director and his upcoming retirement, he says his injuries from a 2004 mail bomb explosion weren’t what he found most painful.
It was the politics.
“After 30 years in public service, there comes a time when you know it’s your time,” said Logan of his Nov. 16 retirement. “I’ve been contemplating it for a long time.”
Response to racism
The Scottsdale Diversity and Dialogue Office came online in 1998 in response to a successful lawsuit alleging racism in the city’s police department.
“Scottsdale was cast in the spotlight on a national level as being racist,” Logan said.
The diversity office was the first of its kind in Arizona, and Logan was chosen to head the department.
The department immediately became a target for critics who felt that Scottsdale, a city whose population is overwhelmingly white — so much so that urban lore bills it as the country’s “fifth whitest city” — doesn’t need a diversity department.
“Not everyone is down with diversity,” Logan said. “People may say it because it’s the PC thing to say.”
On the other side, some diversity department supporters expected him to toe the party line because of his race, he said. Logan, however, said he believes the job requires someone reasonable, who will make correct decisions based on the facts, and then will be able to justify his or her choices.
“If you come into this office and think I’m going to automatically side with you because we’re the same skin color, you’d be mistaken,” he said.
‘A COWARDLY ACT’
In 2004, some unidentified person tried to murder him.
Logan remembers joking with co-workers the day the box arrived that it might be a bomb. Something about it must have triggered his suspicions, because as he opened it on his assistant’s desk in the hallway just outside his office, he had a moment’s hesitation.
As he lifted the top flap, he heard a loud pop and his fingers began to hurt, Logan said. When he looked around, he noticed the windows behind the desk of his assistant, Renita Linyard, had been blown out. Logan said he ducked behind a wall in the hallway.
“I thought someone had shot through the window,” he said. “I looked back down the hall and I realized, ‘It was a bomb.’”
The explosion injured Logan’s right hand and arm, sent Linyard to the hospital with shrapnel in her face, and injured another city employee, Jaque Bell, as well. It knocked out the building’s phones and power, left a crater in Linyard’s desk, and smashed pictures on the wall and the windows to Logan’s office. Shrapnel riddled the wall above the door to his office, in front of which Logan had been standing.
All three victims recovered from their injuries.
Patricia Armstrong, an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service’s Phoenix branch, said the bombing remains unsolved.
“We are still actively investigating that case,” she said.
Logan called the assassination attempt cowardly.
“Whatever propelled this person or persons to do this had to do with the work that I do,” he said.
These days, the Diversity and Dialogue Office building, on Main Street just east of City Hall, is surrounded by a metal fence through which one can pass only with the assent of on-site security. All of the building’s exterior doors have key card locks, and the mail is inspected.
Logan said he has no idea who might have tried to kill him.
“I can’t get overly excited about what happened to me. Until I find out who or why, I’m not going to waste a lot of energy in speculating,” he said.
Rather, it was the verbal, personal attacks in the political sphere against him before the explosion that cut the deepest, he said.
“Most people probably think my most painful memory in this job is the actual bombing,” Logan said. “As traumatic as that event was, the pain that I will take away from this job is not so much physical as much as some of the politics that came into play prior to the bombing.”
The city likely will have a recruitment process to find his replacement, he said.
“The best person for my job is probably a white male,” Logan said, suggesting that his skin color sometimes led people to make unwarranted assumptions about him.
“If you have a white male that ‘gets it,’ that white male may be successful in dealing with the white population.”
SCOTTSDALE’S GAY ISSUES
Despite Logan’s planned departure, the diversity office is still dealing with civil rights issues, particularly with gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered. Scottsdale officials and GLBT activists have committed to work together to fight the perception that the city is hostile to the GLBT community in the wake of two attacks on gay men in the last several months and a local club’s decision to ban transgendered patrons because of safety concerns.
Logan said one proposal endorsed by the city’s Human Relations Commission to prohibit private businesses from discriminating against the GLBT community needs more discussion.
“When we start talking about private businesses ... it isn’t a decision you just walk into blindly,” he said. “I’m concerned about the unintended consequences from some of the proposals on the table.”
Logan said he plans to write a book about his experience.
“I’ve just come to realize that there’s no good time to leave,” he said. “There’s always going to be things happening on the diversity front, there’s always going to be a need for change.”