County to hire community and public affairs specialist
The petitions on the Municipal Fund and Service Area #6 taxes last year highlighted the need for increased communication between Summit County and its constituents, according to County Manager Bob Jasper.
To facilitate communication with constituents and the press, the county is hiring a full-time community and public affairs specialist, whose salary is yet to be defined.
"The tax issue helped drive this," Jasper said. "It’s important to communicate what we are, who we are and how we do things. And if the public is not happy, tell them how they can address that."
Many people don’t understand "even roughly" what the county does or is," Jasper said. "So many people in Snyderville Basin think they live in Park City. We need help in figuring out how we can explain to our body politic what county government is, how it works and how the public can be heard."
Jasper added that in doing so, the county needs to modernize how it reaches out to constituents.
"I think there is a concern that the world is changing," Jasper said. "Print, television and radio media is not what it was, and we need to change along with the world. A lot of folks would like us to make better use of the Internet and social media and other ways of communicating."
Jasper said his son doesn’t sit down to watch the news or read the paper.
"He gets the news off his cell phone. And that’s today. I don’t know where we’ll be in a decade," he said.
Jasper admitted he’s not the "world’s expert" on social media, but said he knows the county needs to modernize.
"We have an obligation to communicate with our constituents and we need to rethink the various ways things need to be done and think about what makes more sense," he said. "I’m not the one to define that. That’s why we’re hiring someone with more expertise."
Part of the challenge for the incoming public affairs specialist will be to define county positions on various topics, even though council members may have independent positions.
"Dave Ure voted against and was not in support of the Municipal Fund tax increase, although he was OK with the Service Area #6 increase. He has the ability to go out and say, I don’t agree. But he may be one out of five that feels that way," Jasper said.
The public affairs specialist will also likely be tasked with instructing the county staff and elected officials with how to work with the press, though information will not have to be filtered through the public affairs specialist, he said.
"Of course I work for an elected body, so I’m not going to say to them, or to anybody, that you must clear everything with the [public affairs specialist] before you can say anything to the press," he said. "That’s not how counties function and we’re just not doing it. But I will say, you have a hell of a resource available to you; you might want to take advantage of it. This is not about limiting the press from going after a story. This is not about spin. That would never work and I don’t believe in it. This is about finding more modern and reasonable ways to communicate."
Jasper said he has interviewed the applicants and plans to make a decision next week.
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The project will also lower the speed limit in that stretch from 65 mph to 55 mph.