If you find yourself with a much more positive view of Guilford County government later in 2023 than you did at the beginning of the year – well, there’s an explanation for that.
Guilford County has just hired three new public relations employees, which, in one fell swoop, quadruples the size of the department that does things like inform the community of county services and events, helps county administrators communicate with county staff and attempts to get people to view the county and its government in a positive light.
In the early summer of 2022, Guilford County hired Communications and Public Relations Director Julie Smith to do things like inform county residents about the fiscal 2022-2023 budget, communicate with employees about a pay and benefits study and call attention to the Guilford County Division of Public Health winning the state’s “Health Department of the Year” award.
Now, Smith will have three employees under her helping her with those and other tasks.
In the past, it would be unheard of for the county to quadruple a department overnight – however, in 2023 it may be a trend. The county recently nearly tripled the size of its Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Department. At the start of 2023, Guilford County had three employees devoted to increasing MWBE participation in county contracts and services. Now, after the county added five MWBE positions, there will be eight county employees devoted to that purpose.
It’s nothing new for Guilford County administrators to want to improve the county’s public image, and, for much of this century, Guilford County managers have been trying to class up the image of Guilford County and give it a more polished and professional public-facing demeanor. There has been a feeling among many in county government that, though Guilford County is the third largest county in the state, the county’s government enjoys nothing like the professional image Mecklenburg County and Wake County do.
Nearly two decades ago, when the then-new Guilford County Manager David McNeil wanted to spruce up the image of the county, McNeil found a dusty old podium with a county seal on it and he cleaned it up and encouraged county commissioners to use it when they held press conferences or spoke in television news spots. It didn’t really enhance the county’s image all that much, however, the podium did have the advantage of not costing the county’s taxpayers three salaries and three benefits packages annually.