The Coast News Group

Oceanside is still considering hiring a PIO

OCEANSIDE — A request by Mayor Jim Wood to consider hiring a city communications specialist was pulled from the Dec. 17 agenda, but it may be reconsidered during the annual city budget review in late spring.

Wood said the position title and description was not worded as he wanted. His suggestion to the city manager was to hire a public information officer (PIO) to oversee city communications, and promote a positive image of the city.

“We had it before with the Police Department, it actually improved our public image for the whole city,” Wood said.

Wood said he sees the position as a salesperson for Oceanside.

“There’s not one person on the top of the pack to represent the city of Oceanside as a whole, and get good things out there to the press,” Wood said.

He added a communications specialist would see city promotion and marketing decisions through, but does not have the authority that a PIO does to make those decisions.

A PIO would also be paid more than the salary shown for a communications specialist, which ranged from $87,200 to $109,700.

Wood said he was surprised the item was on the agenda, and not looked at as a hiring decision to be made by the city manager.

Councilman Chuck Lowery said the mayor spoke to him about the idea prior to the council meeting, and he told the mayor he did not have enough information about the position to make a decision.

Lowery added that he looked into what the position entails after the council meeting, and now agrees a PIO is needed.

“Oceanside, in a way, is behind the times in not having a public information officer,” Lowery said.

Lowery said he would like to see a city PIO in order to ensure residents are informed of important issues going on within the city. He described the position as a go-between, between city operations and the public.

Lowery said currently each department independently shares information with residents.

A PIO would ensure information is disseminated consistently and effectively, beyond current practices of sharing mandatory water cutbacks and rate increases on the outside of billing envelopes.

“I want to have a more informed public, to reach them and let them know we have pieces of information for residents that are important for them to know,” Lowery said.

He said he expects the item to be looked at during the annual budget review, and like Wood, said it will likely be a decision the city manager makes without it going to a council vote.

Both Wood and Lowery said the size and activity of the city warrants a PIO.