By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Concerned that the county isn’t doing any kind of job controlling its own message, Hays County commissioners discussed the possible hiring of a communications director this week.
The discussion arose in the midst of a deeper matter concerning the seating of a citizens committee to determine how much elected officials should be paid.
Commissioners said the county needs to do a better job informing citizens about legislative developments while generating internal and external communications. In particular, commissioners said the county could make better use of its website, which contains little more than contact information and posted agendas.
As the discussion continued, commissioners became so enamored of the idea that they agreed to move off the $36,000 salary budgeted for the position and go for someone in the $45,000-$65,000 range.
“We’re going to want someone with skill and experience,” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle). “More skill than experience, but not someone right out of school.”
Said Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos), “I don’t think ($36,000) will work.”
Barton mentioned that the employment of a publicist would be different for the county than for other governmental entities, because the county does not have an administrator. Whereas a city publicist would report to a city manager or a school publicist would report to a superintendent, a county publicist would answer to a body of five elected officials.
Commissioners and Hays County Human Resources Director Dee Dee Baen agreed that the court should take pains to keep the publicist from being enslaved by politics, going so far as to recommend that the messages to citizens should stick to the raw facts and not even break down the votes on individual initiatives.
As an example of what the county might be able to achieve with a public information director, Baen passed out copies of Schertz Tales, an initiative of Schertz Media Relations Director Brad Bailey, who was the chief of staff for former Hays County Judge Jim Powers. Baen didn’t mention that the glossy magazine calls for a budget of its own, though she did say that Schertz Tales pays for itself through advertising.
Baen was to develop a job description based on the court’s remarks and return with it in the future.
The commissioners agreed to assemble a seven-person committee to recommend salaries for elected officials. The court passed Barton’s motion that the committee include two persons selected at random from the Hays County grand jury pool, one official from a Hays County school district, one official from one of the five largest cities in Hays County, one member of the faculty in public administration at Texas State, one from a large employer and one small business as designated by a Hays County chamber of commerce.
The discussion generated a little friction, mostly on the philosophical question of what constitutes a small business. While some commissioners thought along the lines of a small business as defined by the Small Business Administration, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos), said the court should think more in terms of sole proprietorships.
“The lady at the taco stand, that’s a whole lot of who we are,” Conley said.Email | Print