Public information officer on her way out

The city will eliminate a job worth $60,000, including benefits, to save money.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007

As part of a cost-cutting move, the St. Pete Beach City Commission has decided to ax its public information officer position.

"There's a position already in the recreation department that has handled special events," City Manager Mike Bonfield said. "We decided to rework the description of that position to include some of theses duties."

Natalie Strong, who is primarily responsible for coordinating special events, working with the media and maintaining the city's Web site, will stay with the staff until after the city's 50th anniversary celebration. She doesn't plan to pursue the position with the recreation department, according to an e-mail Bonfield sent to city commissioners.

Strong became the city's first public information officer after the position was created two years ago. The position costs the city about $60,000, including benefits.

Commissioner Harry Metz said he was happy with Strong's work but thought the position was unnecessary.

"I don't think the city needs anything like that. Natalie was the first and last," he said.

Mayor Ward Friszolowski voiced concerns about losing the position.

"We're in tough budget times so we've got to make cuts, but the PIO was a way to keep the media informed about our community, and that's an important position," Friszolowski said.

The commission is scheduled to hear the first reading of the budget on Sept. 11.

Strong did not respond to phone calls about the decision.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.