City communications: The names have been changed to protect the innocent

The City of St Augustine will no longer have a director of public affairs.  In fact, when Historic City News received the Press Release announcing the retirement of 65-year-old Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson, the City disclosed that it will no longer have a Public Affairs Department.  Not that the City isn’t going to have a regular need for “damage control” to spin their mistakes and malevolent management, the city manager must think he can get along a little longer by describing sea level rise as “sunny day flooding”.

Williamson came to work for the City in August 2000.  After his last annual raise, he was earning $91,797 each year, plus benefits. But, by December 2015, even the “hear-no-evil, see-no-evil” administration of John Regan couldn’t ignore that Williamson was ill prepared for the Internet, social media, and the public expectation of evolving technology.  After all, he still thought he was meaningfully “communicating” by doing a weekly program on college radio.

Rather than hold Williamson accountable for his lack of proficiency and retiring him on the spot, Regan simply hired an additional employee to do the job that Williamson was unable to do.  The result was creation of a new position, “Public Information Coordinator”. 

Proving the point that nearly any warm body could do Williamson’s job, after careful consideration Regan decided on a part-time marina attendant, Melissa Wissel, who had only been on the City payroll for 13-months.  Further proving that it has been Wissel doing the work in that department since her arrival in 2015, Regan now touts how much “has been done in recent years to keep in step with the accelerated pace of information dissemination.”

After 4-years, 49-year-old Wissel, who is earning $48,728 each year plus benefits as “Public Information Coordinator“, has been promoted to “Communications Manager“.  And, the “Public Affairs Department” has changed its name to the “Communication Division“.

Housewife or Domestic Engineer.  Public Information Coordinator or Communications Manager.  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  No word yet on what Wissel’s “new name” will pay.

Since joining Public Affairs, Wissel has been an essential part in the launch of two websites, establishing a presence on social media, improving public outreach, and expanding the use of video messages for increased public engagement.