City creates public information specialist position

Sharing information with the public is an important function of government, and local officials want to do a better job of it.

That is why the city of Seymour soon will have a public information specialist.

City council members recently voted 7-0 to create the new position in an effort to improve both internal and external communications and help create a positive image and well-recognized brand for Seymour.

The position is being added to the mayor’s staff, which includes an administrative assistant and a receptionist/secretary.

Mayor Matt Nicholson said the public information specialist will earn $30,000 to $33,000 for 2021. That salary will be paid from various available funds within the city’s budget, he said.

Councilman Jerry Hackney, chairman of the finance committee, said job duties for the new employee will include preparing news releases and interacting with media outlets and the public, among other tasks.

Over the past 15 months, the city has seen the benefits of having a public information officer for the Seymour Police Department, and Nicholson said there is a need for improved communication and interaction across the board.

“I think there have been several times we’ve had good public interaction thanks to someone that is focused on the role of interacting with the public,” he said of Officer Jeremy Helmsing at SPD. “This would create the same position that would cover all of the departments.”

From better publicity for programs such as Make Seymour Shine Week and Storm Water Awareness Month to updates on road and sewer projects and events taking place in the city to sharing emergency communications, the position will serve as a spokesperson for Seymour.

He or she will be involved with all of the city’s social media platforms and its website, Nicholson said.

Chad Dixon, director of the Department of Public Works, Jarin Gladstein, director of the Water Pollution Control facility, and Police Chief Bryant Lucas all voiced their support for the new position.

“I absolutely love the idea,” Dixon said.

Originally, Nicholson planned to post the position and hoped to have someone in place by the middle of May, but the council pushed that deadline up by suspending its rules and approving the position on first and second reading at the same meeting.

Councilman Drew Storey said he didn’t think the council needed to wait two weeks for a second reading.

“I think this is a really good way to channel all of the departments and be able to relinquish some of that responsibility and give some flexibility,” he said.

Councilman Bret Cunningham agreed.

“It’s a great way to market the city,” he said.

Nicholson said having a public information specialist will give the city an opportunity to reach a wider audience.

“This is a chance for somebody to focus on telling the story of Seymour,” he said. “We have plenty of good news going on every day. It’s just a matter of we don’t always get a chance to tell it, and now, we will.”