City hiring PR manager to help with outreach, messaging
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter is planning to bring a public relations manager to City Hall instead of a deputy city manager.
The city is currently advertising the PR position with a pay range from $60,100 to $90,100, depending on experience.
“I’ve seen and felt the benefits of having this position,” Suiter said Wednesday. “Governments generally are not very good at PR.”
As an example of a benefit of the position, he said a public relations manager was invaluable in the town of Estes Park after that community was ravaged wildfires and floods.
Suiter said other mountain resort communities in Colorado also have public relations managers who develop communications plans and take the lead on public outreach efforts.
Here in Steamboat, he said, a pair of city employees are only able to dedicate a small amount of their time to the task of issuing press releases and serving as public information officers.
Asked for their reaction to the new position, some city council members said Thursday they had not seen the job posting.
“I’m not too sure what the position is about,” Council President Walter Magill said. “I’m interested to see what the duties and requirements are. I’m not aware right now of what this person is going to be doing day to day.”
Asked if he had noticed any public relations issues in the city government that would merit the addition of the position in the city administration, Magill said he couldn’t comment until he learned more about the job.
Councilman Scott Ford also had not heard about the job posting.
“I imagine Gary will bring it to us during some budget discussions,” Ford said.
The council does not have control over the hiring of city employees aside from their manager and attorney.
But council members control payroll levels.
The salary for the position this year would be paid for by funds that were budgeted for a deputy city manager.
The job posting comes a year after former City Manager Deb Hinsvark took some flak in the community for proposing to hire a public information officer instead of a deputy city manager.
Some community members felt the addition of a public relations staff member on the city’s management team could ding government transparency instead of improving it.
The criticism about the potential hire was so strong, Hinsvark wrote a letter to the community and walked back her suggestion that she would go with a PIO instead of the deputy.
She instead proposed combining the roles.
“Thank you for exposing your concern that a PIO might be used to block information,” she wrote in the letter. “That is the exact opposite of our goal.”
Hinsvark resigned before she could make a hire.
According to a job posting, the new public relations manager will “conceptualize, develop, and implement comprehensive and multi-faceted community relations, public relations, social media, citizen outreach and engagement, public information, crisis and emergency communication programs.”
Suiter said the position will help to unify the city’s web presence and tell the story of “who we are and what we do.”
The city has gone without a deputy city manager now for nearly four years.
Hinsvark was the city’s last deputy city manager before she was promoted to interim city manager.
The city is accepting applications for the public relations manager through Sept. 23.
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