What is your role at the Fayetteville Public Works Commission?
I’m the Communications and Community Relations officer. I manage internal, external, and crisis communication—everything from educational outreach to sponsorships to community support.
How long have you been in this role?
I’ve been at PWC since 1997, and basically in the same role, but it’s changed! When I started here, we really didn’t use email, and we had a 2-page website. But the thing that has changed the most is we all realized how stakeholder communications, community relations, and all the proactive things that we do strengthen our relationships.
How do you reach so many different people last-minute, in a crisis like Florence?
We communicate frequently. We start with our grassroots channels—our commissioners, city council, and stakeholders—who can help support the message once it goes out. With Florence, we kept our message consistent. We communicated the same message on media and social media that we did with our employees and with the city council. Everyone got the same thing across the board.
How do you quantify the scope of Florence?
We had approximately 60 percent of our customers who, at some point, lost services. That’s about 50,000 people. That was quite a bit. But within 72 hours of when we were able to get out and start making repairs, the majority of those were back on.
What was your toughest moment?
The storm wouldn’t move on. That holding pattern. Having to tell customers “We can’t get out and start restoring services yet.” In all my time here, we’ve never had a storm or situation like that.
What was the most encouraging/uplifting thing?
I was so proud of our utility as a whole, our team, and our communications. But we got a Facebook message from someone in public affairs at Fort Bragg. They said they were taking some graduate courses, and they were going to recommend to their professor that we be a communications case study. My whole staff was like, “Oh my gosh!”
But we don’t do it for the praise—we do it so our customers are happy and our employees can do their jobs without customers being frustrated.