Lake Worth taps communications guru to boost social media efforts
By Kevin D. Thompson – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 4:50 p.m. Monday, July 11, 2016 | Posted: 2:53 p.m. Monday, July 11, 2016
LAKE WORTH — To better inform residents and expand its social media presence, Lake Worth recently hired a communications specialist.
Laura Tingo, former communications director for the Florida Department of Children and Families and West Palm Beach’s one-time public information officer, started in her new Lake Worth role July 5.
“Lake Worth is such an interesting arts and cultural mix,” said Tingo, 51, who was also a public relations coordinator for the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County from April 2012 to December 2013. “It just seemed like a wonderful fit. I see myself as an educator and there are so many wonderful and rich stories to tell about the people of Lake Worth.”
Last July, the City Commission discussed putting money in the budget to hire a public information officer. At that meeting, Mayor Pam Triolo said that would be a good idea.
“We have a lot going on in this city and we’re a very eclectic and diverse community,” Triolo said. “Every city has someone doing this in some capacity. We’ve just been so cash-strapped for a long time.”
Dolores Key, the city’s economic development and marketing director who interviewed Tingo with Finance Director Marie Elianor, said Tingo will earn $54,000 annually.
“She’s more than just a spokesperson,” Key said. “We’ve been wanting to get someone on-board for our social media. I’ve been doing it as best I could, but it was more than one person could handle. It’s time for us to step up our game.”
Tingo said she plans to implement a communications strategy, but she couldn’t cite specifics because she said she’s still getting to know the city. Tingo said she would like to examine how public information requests are handled, determine how residents are getting their information on social media and assess how employees communicate internally.
“It helps to be responsive and transparent,” said Tingo, a mom of three who lives in North Palm Beach and who has an extensive print and journalism background in Florida and Illinois. “Every city has its challenges, but involving the community is the way to go.”
Key said the city received about 70 applications for the position. Key and Elianor whittled that number down to five, who were interviewed by both. The top three names were given to City Manager Michael Bornstein.
Key said the city liked Tingo’s government and private sector experience.
“She seems like a real go-getter,” Key said.
Not everyone, however, is happy the city is spending $54,000 on a new position as the city is grappling with so many infrastructure problems.
“I have some reservations on the whole concept,” said Commissioner Christopher McVoy. “For a city that doesn’t have a lot to spare, you have to choose your priorities and where you think it’s important to put money.”
McVoy said Tingo’s salary could have been used to help fix potholes. “A communications person is not generating content for the city,” he said, “They’re just communicating stuff. I want money spent on content and on getting things done as opposed to spending it on talking about what we’d like to do.”
Commissioner Andy Amoroso doesn’t agree.
“If you’re looking at ($54,000) versus $65 million of infrastructure, ($54,000) is just a drop in the bucket,” Amoroso said at last year’s commission meeting.