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Tustin PIO Resigns. No Communication?

While we were out enjoying the Tustin Tiller Days Parade from our front porch, we got word that the city’s Public Information Officer, Lisa Woolery, abruptly resigned her position with the city. I reached out to several sources in the city and even emailed Lisa to find out the details. This evening, we finally received an email from Lisa, who stated the move was purely career-oriented. “I’m ready for new challenges and a better salary.”

Lisa had been with the city for over 6 years. She came to the position with outstanding credentials: a former teacher,  a masters in communications from CSUF and has worked in the field for over 15 years. She is only one of 1,400 public relaitions professionals to have earned the Accredited Public Relations certification from the Public Relations Society of America.She was named Public Information Officer of the Year in February and both The Liberal OC and Our Town Tustin applauded her achievements.

It was unfortunate the kudos were one sided. Over the year, Woolery had managed to stop communicating with local blogs, including the Lib and us, and apparently only worked with Ellyse James of the Orange County Register, whom she was more than happy to feed the stories of Tustin’s bright side. She was not happy with criticism of the city or, in particular, the (un) transparency in city government that was supposedly her bailiwick. When we ran a story complaining the city was not being very transparent in their dealings over the cell towers at Cedar Grove Park, we received a curt email stating that all future requests for information would need to be made under the California Public Records Act to the city clerk. We were also cut off from further press releases and had to rely on combing the city website for general information.

Whether it was bruised ego or a directive from the city fathers (read Jerry Amante), Woolery failed in a principle goal of any communications manager to maintain relationships with the media. Realizing we were and are an upstart blog for the city, Woolery did not seem to grasp the responsibilities of watchdog blogs such as ours and the well established The Liberal OC, where Dan Chmielewski had told me long ago that she refused to communicate with him. There is an old saying we frequently bring up: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And, while never considered each other enemies, we often had an adversarial relationship mostly due to the nature of the blog.

Woolery’s hours were cut earlier this year in a budget move. That was verified by our sources at city hall who stated she was down to 32 hours a week. Was City Manager Jeff Parker trying to send her a message? If so, she apparently received it, loud and clear and she is joining the flock of talent leaving our city for greener pastures where visions of Jerrydom fade into the distance.

For the near future, I have been told the Facebook and Twitter feeds are being handled by Debbie Sowder from the City Manager’s office. She came out strong and has been posting to Facebook and tweeting her littler heart out all weekend from Tiller Days over at Columbus Tustin Park. We’ll see how often those tweets are coming after the newness has worn off.

For our part, we will say goodbye and good luck, Lisa. When we were talking, we had a good relationship and I appreciate you making my job easier in the beginning. Happy trails.

Tustin Communications Manager Named PIO of the Year

A hat tip to our friends at The Liberal OC for a great story about Tustin’s Public Information Officer, Lisa Woolery.Lisa was recently named Public Information Officer of the Year by PublicCEO. It should be noted, she was the only Orange County winner of an “of the year” award  by the organization.

If you are on Facebook or Twitter and have “friended” the City of Tustin, you have seen Lisa’s handiwork. She also manages the front page of the website, press releases and other publicity for the city and city officials. In fact, the majority of information released to the public in most any form probably has her handiwork in it. She has arranged interviews for this blog that would probably not have happened otherwise, convincing some, I am sure, that Our Town Tustin just “wants the facts”. And, Lisa knows how to package those facts and put the best face on, sometimes, sticky situations.

From Public CEO:

In the City of Tustin, 2011 was a dynamic year. Challenges cropped up as the City dealt with lawsuits with the local school district, and a recall effort was waged against the Mayor. However, the City also restarted a massive redevelopment project for the Tustin Air Base and opened a new facility at the Tustin Metro stop. Helping with each challenge, success, or program there was the Public Information Officer, Lisa Woolery.

“I was really proud that our council let me break into social media,” said Woolery in an interview with PublicCEO. “It was at a time when our budgets were being cut and mine was cut in half and then cut in half again. I was stuck in a position on how to get my message out to Tustin when I didn’t have the budget to do it.”

Lisa says she relies on social media like Facebook and Twitter to help get he message across. She is tech-savvy and knows her way around social media sites. She likes the social aspect as it lets her immediately connect with folks and “answer questions directly”. We couldn’t agree more. Lisa pays attention to the feeds and, if you put a question to her on Facebook, she is likely to get back to you in a few minutes. Of course, complex answers may take a little longer, but she will make sure she gets an answer for you. “I don’t know” is not a phrase she uses. “Let me find out for you.” is a common phrase for her.

We won’t go into all the details that Dan Chmielewski did at the Lib but we do agree that, at times, Lisa deserves combat pay for having to work for former Mayor Jerry Amante and the Gang of Five. She has (sometimes rightfully) defended the council for certain actions and, even when I think something they did is indefensible, she at least explains it and shows me a different point of view. She certainly has my respect and I appreciate the professional courtesy and friendship.

So, we certainly join Dan and The Liberal OC in saying, congratulations for your professional achievement and a great honor. Hopefully, she and the Lib can build those bridges Dan speaks of.