Cherokee County continues to move rapidly into the future. The quiet rural county of yesterday has become Georgia’s seventh largest.
We’ll likely double again in population over the next 25 years, even with careful growth management. We have to conduct ourselves like the county we are, and prepare for the county we will become.
Cherokee County hasn’t had a public information officer or communications director. That role has been filled by one administrative assistant to the board of commissioners and county manager, who has juggled communications with all other duties.
The role properly includes more than writing occasional press releases; it involves maintaining a positive relationship with the media. Not just posting items on social media, but creating a consistent and meaningful presence there. Not just directing questions and complaints to an appropriate staff member, but understanding what’s behind them, and how more proactive communications could head them off.
Essentially, it means developing and carrying out an effective strategy to keep people well informed about Cherokee County, and what’s going on here. But, it’s even more than that. Communication is a two-way street. We have to invite and respond to citizen input actively. One person just can’t do that in his or her spare time.
As your elected leaders, we want to keep you informed, and have worked to make sure we get out timely information. I write this monthly column, and I send an email update to a fairly large distribution list once or twice a month. We answer calls and emails. But, it’s not enough. Communication has been an ongoing weakness, and a notable weakness during times of controversy and crisis. We need improvement, and we’ve taken action to achieve it.
We’ve created the position of county communications director, and hired county resident and former newspaper editor Erika Neldner to fill it. She most recently served in a similar role for Reinhardt University. She’s a pro in the field, and we’re lucky to get her.
Erika is developing a communications strategy and plan, and she wants your input about how the county can communicate better. If you have suggestions, email her at email@example.com.
I plan to continue my individual communication efforts, but will work to coordinate them with Erika’s overall plan. If you’d like to receive my occasional email updates, or if you have suggestions for me about communications or anything else, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.