County publicity campaign wins praise

February 10, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Good public relations man that he is, Howard County Press Officer Kenneth C. Mays claimed none of the credit for the excellence in government award he and his staff received yesterday.

Mr. Mays and Art Director Victoria Hastings were cited by the Maryland Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration for having developed a publicity campaign telling the exploits of various county employees.

"This was an opportunity to put these employees behind the scenes out front," said Ms. Hastings. "It was so gratifying to see the looks on their faces when we said, 'You're going to be featured' " in the ad, she said.

"They're truly the heroes," Mr. Mays said of county employees. "Our hope is to be communicating better with our citizens so that they see us on a more human level."

The publicity campaign for county employees consisted of six advertisements that were included in water bill notices, property and fire tax bills, and various county circulars.

The advertisement included in the water bill, for example, showed a picture of utility worker Leo Dickey smiling proudly as he stood behind a pair of muddy boots.

"Leo Dickey worked knee-deep in mud all weekend so you could take a hot shower on Monday morning!" the headline above the picture said. On the reverse side, residents were told why they should celebrate the accomplishments of Leo Dickey and other county employees.

"Last summer when a water main broke near Elkridge, Leo and his crew worked all weekend just to make sure that more than 2,000 homes affected wouldn't go without water," the ad said. "The next time you're enjoying a hot shower, watering the garden or just getting a drink of water, remember Leo and the other people behind the scene who proudly serve you every day."

All six advertisements end with the tag line, "The People of Howard County Government. Caring & Quality Make ALL the Difference!"

County resident Alan Baker, the public administration society's former president, said that ordinarily, the society does not give an award to government per se, "but this was such an excellent campaign -- a natural -- exactly the thing we're trying to do."

"We all know how difficult it is to get public awareness of public service going," said society president Jolene Lauria Sullens. "I hope your leadership spreads to other counties in Maryland."

Mr. Mays said he is already working with his counterpart at the state level to develop a similar campaign for the state.

"This program took off like a rocket," said Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd.

"I'm astounded and pleasantly surprised," he said.

Residents usually don't hear about county employees unless the news is bad, Mr. Gray said. "We as county government have to report when things are going right," he said.

In addition to Mr. Dickey, the ads featured permit clerk Bonnie Harkins, firefighter Dennis Beard, police officers Tom Bellmon and Bernadette Carrieri, parks maintenance specialist Bill Owens, and seniors advocate Lou Prebil.

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