Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach has added a $56,000-a-year position to help him communicate with the public on Facebook and Twitter and other channels even as other departments face staffing reductions next year.
Laura Benjamin, a businesswoman who runs her own training and coaching company, was hired Nov. 9 to work as a public communications specialist in the mayor’s Communications Office.
Benjamin, who volunteered on Bach’s mayoral campaign, will produce and oversee the city’s online marketing and communication functions, including its websites, social media and online press releases, said Cindy Aubrey, the mayor’s chief communications officer.
Aubrey said Benjamin also will oversee bachsoffice.com, the mayor’s new website, and assist in the mayor’s social media efforts, among other duties.
“The mayor felt communications is a priority,” Aubrey said Tuesday. “Communicating with the public, communicating with the employees and making sure that if our communications efforts are going to be ramped up, we need to be staffed adequately.”
When asked why her office was adding a position when other departments were cutting back, Aubrey noted that the city plans police and firefighter training academies in 2012.
Initially, Aubrey said her office wasn’t adding a position by hiring Benjamin.
“I know that you guys will say that we hired someone additionally, but we lost a body, and we were replacing someone,” she said. “I’m not growing the department. I simply replaced someone.”
Aubrey was referring to Tim Burke, the city’s intergovernmental affairs liaison. Burke, who has worked part time for the past three years, reported to the Communications Office and occasionally acted as a city spokesman, but his position was budgeted under the City Council.
Aubrey backtracked after checking with the Budget Office.
“Technically, we are adding a person,” she said in an email.
Benjamin, president of Laura Benjamin Communications, said she brings the right experience to her new job.
“I think why the position was a great fit, according to what everybody has said, is that my background has been focused on communications for a very long time for a wide variety of platforms,” Benjamin said.
“I’ve taught social media at the Small Business Development Center and taught classes and clinics on it,” she said.
“Having that broad background as well as more of a strategic understanding of how social media can be used after having taught it for so many years, I think that that’s where I see a lot of value, being able to bring that broad exposure.”
Aubrey said Benjamin’s skills will be a “tremendous asset.”
Benjamin will continue to operate her communications company as well as working for the city.
“When I took this job, I had commitments that I had made, so certainly no one in the city wants me to compromise or break those commitments,” she said.
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