Kathy Morse, Mission’s new communications officer, breaks into a grin as she displays her new “Blackberry” — a clipboard of lined paper and a pen.
Her remark is meant more to break the ice than poke fun at the fact that the district’s new specialist in communications and social media hasn’t yet been provided a smartphone, or an office for that matter.
But the former mayor and lifetime resident of Maple Ridge is taking things slow. There’s no municipal Twitter account or Facebook page yet, and she hasn’t made any sweeping changes in the first two weeks of her contentious position.
She says that’s because she’s spent the time gathering information and consulting with people, to let them know that communication is the basis of change.
“For me, the critical thing is relationship building,” she says, adding her job is help the public, not council.
There has been controversy surrounding the appointment, a decision made during an in-camera council meeting, which some critics argue is council’s means of creating a public relations campaign to gloss over the negative aspects of the past three years.
Morse said she doesn’t know about the politics surrounding her appointment, and it doesn’t concern her.
“It speaks, in and of itself, of how things are being communicated,” she says while stressing people have focused on the position instead of the process being undertaken. The key function to that process is getting more information into public hands.
“You have six months to create value,” she says, adding that if at the end of that time there isn’t a public perception of a necessity for the position, she expects it won’t be renewed.
Morse has worked in theatre, as a flight instructor, a broadcaster with CKNW, a councillor and mayor in Maple Ridge, and has run her own strategic communications company for six years. The constant throughout has been her skill as a people person.
She intends to use that skill to help the public better understand what’s going on in their town.
“I call it people speak,” she says, explaining it can be frustrating, or even disrespectful, to provide information to people they can’t understand.
But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, she adds quickly, praising how many departments have been able to provide information without formal communications training.
One of her priorities is to try and connect with the estimated 40 per cent of the population under 35 years of age, who are used to being able to find data online quickly.
Her experience in municipal government has also helped her slip into the new role comfortably, though she describes her memory of being in politics as a lifetime ago.
So far, Morse has spoken to the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce, and intends to go to the upcoming meeting on water meters Sept. 24 at Silverdale Hall. It’s all a part of building those critical relationships in the community.
Still, she knows pleasing everybody won’t be possible, regardless of her actions.
“Will I be perfect? No. I’m not perfect and neither is anybody else.”