Credit: Illustration by Chris Allen, VOICE. Photo of Rene Anderson courtesy of Rene Anderson.

Phyllis Kimber Wilcox |

Rene Anderson was appointed Director of Human Resources for the City of San Bernardino on December 30, 2021. 

This week in an exclusive interview with the IE Voice and Black Voice News, Anderson shares her background, experience, passion for her work and the current priorities of her position.   

As Director, Anderson’s responsibilities include the classification, recruitment and retention of personnel as well as labor relations, supervisor training,  hiring and separations,  service and retirement benefits, risk management and worker’s compensation. 

With responsibility for so many important functions, Anderson spoke openly about her new role, and the background that helped prepare her for it. 

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Anderson was raised in a two parent home, the youngest of three siblings. As an adult, she purchased a home down the street from her parents. The single mother of four, Anderson shared how she  began to notice a change in the neighborhood and decided to relocate her family to the Inland Empire. 

Reporter: 

Where did you go to school?

Anderson:

In middle school and high school I was bused to the valley. I graduated from El Camino Royale High. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills and later on went back and received my Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix in Business Administration.

Reporter:

Which experiences have prepared you for your new  position?

Anderson:

I guess as early as high school I was kind of identified as the voice for the people. So whenever things would go on in high school or amongst my peers, Rene [I] was the voice of reason. Rene was the one who would come sit at the table with the principal or the counselors to kind of advocate…whenever we felt we were treated unfairly and, or we just wanted their attention. 

So, I think it’s just kind of who I am. Just a person who even as an adult I would be in meetings, maybe in a community setting, or in church, or a business meeting, and the people would tell me afterwards, “Rene, I didn’t say anything because I knew you were going to ask.” 

I was always that person who said or asked or spoke to what the people thought.  With that, I have had the ability to connect [and] engage with people. And I just found my passion when I landed in Human Resources and even that was something I knew I wanted to do even before I knew much about it. I just knew I wanted to be in Human Resources. I think it was based on the name itself. I wanted to be a resource for humans and people and not allow businesses and organizations to mistreat or overlook the value we have in human (beings) as the most important aspect to our organizations.

Reporter:

What’s different about being the Director of Human Resources from the other positions you’ve held?

Anderson:

This is the first time I [will] lead a department. I have led sections and/or units but this is the first time as a department head with the added responsibility, so that’s new. Having the  authority and some decision making power is new and different but really the work is still the same and that is– the people first and how the employees feel and making sure that is considered in the decisions that we make in those outcomes. The role is different but I consider myself very hands on. I lead from the front. I am not a person who delegates and/or points my finger. I am definitely involved, an active participant in the work that we do and what gets done.

San Bernardino City Hall (source: pinterest.com)

Reporter:

What are your priorities as you begin this position?

Anderson:

Well just learning the city of San Bernardino of course because I’m new to this city, new to this environment and the city of San Bernardino is unique in how its governance is set and established. Definitely fulfilling the priorities that have been set and established by my leadership [including], the city manager, the assistant city manager and those involved addressing the high [rate of] attrition among the city of San Bernardino [employees]. 

Hiring and focusing on the retention of good personnel and staff [is a priority] and also our most recent accomplishment has been to hire a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer who reports to me and will address some of the concerns of the historical matters  within the organization and the community at-large and  make sure we address and try to correct the negative stigma or reputation the city of San Bernardino might have and be intentional as we fill vacancies  and hire people that we do in a broad range of  recruitment  as well as selections.

Reporter:

You’re the first Black woman to hold the position. Do you feel that puts any extra pressure on you?

Anderson:

I do feel that the seat of Director of Human Resources holds a lot of pressure regardless of my background or ethnicity and I am completely humbled and honored by the opportunity to sit in this seat. I’m a person of integrity and honesty so I don’t feel the pressure because of my ethnicity or anything but I feel the pressure and responsibility of what I do, what my staff does, what my team accomplishes in how it directly or indirectly impacts the lives of our employees.

Reporter:

How has the pandemic affected those priorities? Do you feel it has slowed you down in recruitment in being able to get the kind of staff you need as just being physically present can be a problem?

Anderson:

Yes, the pandemic has changed and impacted the way businesses are run and I don’t think the city of San Bernardino has been excluded from that. It’s definitely a more competitive process, people are more selective about the positions they accept. So, yes, It has been difficult to recruit. It has been difficult to just be timely in moving the processes along because as soon as we develop a rhythm and we’re back to doing things in person another surge occurs. It slows and delays things. Do we go back virtually? It really just delays business overall. People are very particular about their employment selections.  The benefits, whether they get to work at home or not. So many circumstances which were not a high priority before have definitely become a high priority now and telecommuting and teleworking is definitely one of those matters. The city of San Bernardino does not telework. We have a COVID-19 teleworking policy but just our normal policy does not include or allow for us to telework– most of the staff reports to work every day. 

Reporter::

What resources or community support do you need to succeed with your priorities?

Anderson:

I think the community of San Bernardino is concerned and involved and that is appreciated. 

I think just generally speaking as a whole, just patience  during the process from our community to just allow adequate time to see change, to see improvement, to see the recovery and revitalization of the city of San Bernardino as an employer in this community. Our city manager and our city leadership is committed to the resurgence of the city. There are some great things in the works. It’s an exciting time to be here as an employee as well as a part of the community, so patience as we transition and get our footing to really come out with a new identity and new brand for who we are. 

Reporter:

What would you like our readers to know about you or the city you serve?

Anderson:

I am confident in the city manager’s office, the city council and their support and involvement and I’m committed to hard work… and I hope to make the city proud.