I ranted a bit last night about my inability to get any answers relative to a tip I'd received that the Little Rock National Airport was in the market for a new communications job. TJ Williams, currently in charge of media relations, was able to tell me that the airport would be hiring a director of public affairs, but she said she had no other information and didn't volunteer to provide any. I filed an FOI, which, she tells me, she has referred to the airport's personnel chief. I still haven't heard from him.
But I have heard from somebody in the free world who isn't on a $100,000-a-year public salary who has provided me details on the job:
The director of public affairs and governmental relations will be paid $90,560 to $135,838 and report to Airport Executive Director Ron Mathieu (business dining will be good, if the past is prologue).
This person will, among others, administer public affairs and media relations and serve as a spokesman for the airport in media. But job specs also include governmental lobbying. I've asked Williams, currently listed as director of media, marketing and public affairs, how this job affects her role at the airport. No response yet.
Experience in public relations is preferred, I'm told. Airport PR could use a little improvement. Honesty, transparency and careful use of traveler and public dollars are all good places to start.
UPDATE: Another free-worlder reminds me that this hire is in addition to a recently announced new public affairs/marketing deal with the Markham Group and Eric Rob & Isaac, a deal with an estimated annual value of $300,000 (including advertising placements).
UPDATE II: I still have not heard from the Airport personnel chief Allen Williams. I still have not heard back from TJ Williams about where her current job fits in the new scheme. Mathieu is out of town. But the job opening has now been posted on the Little Rock National website. Maybe when this new person gets hired, I'll get some answers to questions about the job, particularly if he or she has the desired "strong networking and interpersonal skills."
See ad on jump:
UPDATE III: Ron Mathieu called this afternoon, just in from a trip to Tel Aviv with an airport trade group (not paid by the LR airport, he said.)
He said the airport once had two public affairs/media positions, most recently when TJ Williams reported to Phil Launius. After Launius retired, Mathieu said he tried to combine the two jobs into one, but it had proven too much work for one person. The new hire will have a primary responsibility for state and federal government work, but also likely will become the new public face of the airport as a media spokesperson. He said he expected many applicants from national advertising of the opening. He praised TJ Williams work in website development and marketing of the airport to Vision Airlines and other potential new carriers and said she’d continue to focus on that work. But he said with potential federal budget cuts in airport grants, “We need to be more active” in government affairs.
He said he had the discretion to create the job beause he was using available uncommitted money. He discussed his plans with commissioners who helped him prepare the job description, but they’d never taken a formal vote on it.