Friday, December 9, 2011

Airport Authority hires spokeswoman

Members say local outreach has suffered

Express Staff Writer

The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority voted Tuesday to enter negotiations to hire Candice Pate, former interim leader of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, as an interim spokeswoman.

The organization has been working on a job description of the new position since June, but some members question whether the position is needed. Hailey representative Susan McBryant said during Tuesday's meeting that she felt hiring a spokesperson—or "communications and outreach facilitator"—was a "dodge" by authority members.

"[Communication] is what all of us have been hired to do," she said. "I'm not going to be an obstructionist person, but I don't believe this is really a necessary position."

Blaine County representative and County Commissioner Angenie McCleary took issue with McBryant's characterization of the new spokesperson's role versus the role of the authority members, saying the new person could help make the entire authority more effective.

"Our responsibility is to communicate clearly with the public," McCleary said. "I don't see any dodging, I see being better able to take that responsibility."

Pate was suggested for the interim position by authority Chair Tom Bowman, who said he worked with her while developing the job description for the position. Bowman said he would still develop a request for qualifications and seek out a permanent spokesperson, but Pate would be able to help develop a communications strategy that the new spokesperson could carry out.

County representative Larry Schoen said he, too, supported the position. Schoen said the authority has generally held its information "close to the vest," a practice that he suggested be discontinued.

"Information is what the public is crying out for," he said.

The addition of a communications and outreach facilitator would affect the authority's contract with the Gallatin Group, a public affairs and lobbying group that currently handles all the authority's public relations. Airport Manager Rick Baird pointed out that Gallatin focuses on state and national communications, while the new spokesperson would help the authority communicate within the valley.

Baird added that he considered Pate to be a good choice, as she is already active in the community.

Bowman said that with a reduction in the amount paid to Gallatin, it's likely that the new position would not be a significant expense for the authority. McCleary said funding for the position would come out of the authority's "replacement airport" budget category.

Pate is expected to begin in the position early next year, pending contract negotiations.

Katherine Wutz:

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