Friday, July 6, 2012

Airport board makes spokeswoman permanent

Pate hired as communications director

Express Staff Writer

Local public relations expert Candice Pate was officially hired as the Friedman Memorial Airport communications director on Tuesday, a job she had been technically doing since late last year.

Pate had been serving as interim communications director since December, when Airport Authority members said they felt communication with the public on airport issues was lacking. Airport Manager Rick Baird said Pate was hired as an "interim" director mostly for her benefit.

"She was unsure she wanted to jump into this storm," he said. "But I think the process has gotten to the point where the board can consider removing the 'interim.'"

Airport Authority members agreed unanimously, stating that Pate has been more effective with local outreach than the authority's previous public relations firm, Gallatin.

"Candice really made the position," said board member Ron Fairfax. "We were all, 'OK, what is this person going to do?' She has changed the way the whole board views communications and given us some good ideas."

Pate has recently launched what she called "coffee talks," which are gatherings with airport staff and authority members in which residents can discuss issues face-to-face. She said during Tuesday's Airport Authority meeting that the first talk, held at Zaney's in Hailey last week, was a success.

"I feel like it was a strong start," she said.

Pate said the meeting was attended by two Sun Valley City Council members, and suggested that the forums would be a way to reach out to local government leaders.

"People seemed to get a lot out of them," Pate said. "The dialogue was tremendous and we really came away from it saying we really need to actively reach out."

Doug Brown, chair of the Wood River Economic Partnership, said he participated in the coffee talks and an airport tour offered by Baird and his staff.

"It was great, because it's not a public meeting setting," he said during Tuesday's meeting. "So many people dislike those settings. It was a great opportunity for anyone to sit across the table from Rick and ask any question and get an answer."

The next coffee talk is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, July 24, at Jesse's Country Grill on Main Street in Bellevue. Pate said she was planning backyard barbecue-type gatherings in Bellevue and Sun Valley over the next month as well.

Kate Wutz:

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