Like most people, Janice Bisgaard wasn’t fully aware of everything public works does. That ended in May 2014, when she joined the team serving Santa Cruz, Calif., a richly historical oceanfront community of stunning beauty, mild temperatures, and culture that having a major university brings.
Although her experience included directing a traffic safety campaign for another city, she was bowled over by how much her 270 co-workers provide and how well they do it. “Touring our facilities and projects made a huge impression on me,” she says. “I was struck by the quality of service and expertise and the pride reflected in employees’ faces.”
The new community relations specialist decided to introduce Santa Cruz residents to their skilled and dedicated civil servants via the Internet. “The Many Faces of Public Works” blog on the city’s website features interviews with and photos of almost 40 co-workers.
She recruited a young photojournalist who was willing to negotiate his fee, which was paid from the department’s education and marketing budget. “The photography price tag made the blog doable,” says Bisgaard. She then collected and edited interviews with employees across all department divisions.
Getting residents to the blog was the other crucial piece of the outreach puzzle. And what’s the easiest way to catch someone’s attention? Offer them something free.
The blog debuted Jan. 5, 2015, via press release, but several profiles were online when residents received their annual Refuse and Recycling mailer the week after Christmas. The mailer encouraged blog visitors who live or work in the city to enter six weekly drawings for prizes donated by local Certified Green Businesses: Santa Cruz Dream Inn; L’Atelier Salon and Day Spa; Kaiser Permanente Arena, home of the Santa Cruz Warriors; Olitas Cantina & Grille; Venture Quest Kayaking; and The Crow’s Nest.
The blog was also promoted in the first edition of CruzNews, a monthly municipal newsletter included with utility bills also launched in January, the Public Works Department’s Facebook page, and e-mails to community partners.
“There were a few days setting up and participating at photo shoots, choosing photos, and collecting narratives,” Bisgaard says. “I worked with a graphic designer creating the collage banner and planning the layout. Editing and promoting brought my time on the blog to about 50 hours.
“Hopefully, the profiles reveal the heart, soul, and diversity of our dedicated team.”
The blog continues to educate residents about how dedicated the city’s public works team is to providing the highest possible quality of life.