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Commissioners Court will hire a spokesperson

Thursday, August 3, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court, which serves a population of more than 1 million residents, voted on Tuesday to create its first countywide public information officer position. The unanimous decision is a partial fulfillment of a recommendation delivered in a third-party structural audit back in 2014. The position is technically a temporary role, with a six-month life expectancy. The PIO’s progress will be monitored by a special subcommittee made up of commissioners Margaret Gómez and Brigid Shea. If the experiment is deemed successful, the court could make the position permanent. Of course, it remains to be seen exactly how success will be measured. During the discussion on Tuesday, members of the court as well as staff hashed out broad expectations. The PIO will serve as the media wrangler for the court and other county executives and also handle public information requests. Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator Deece Eckstein emphasized that the PIO should proactively promote county programs to news outlets, community organizations and other civic groups. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he expects the eventual hire to take on a heavy load. “This job is going to be a lot of evening stuff. I mean you are going to have to get out to the bake sales and ride on the back of the cars and speak everywhere you can,” Daugherty said. Budget staff had already earmarked $200,000 for the position and possibly an assistant, though budget director Travis Gatlin called that amount “a very early planning number.”

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