Joe Rice, Communications Coordinator, City of Charlottesville

Joe Rice, Communication Coordinator, City of Charlottesville

Your job title is Communications Coordinator. What, in your own words, would you say you do?
I was originally hired as Communications Specialist in 2006 and was in charge of programming for our government access television channel, Charlottesville’s OwnTV10, and the digital transition that took place during that time. I was recently promoted to Communications Coordinator, a position that focuses more on internal and external outreach and engagement and allows me to work more closely with the Director of Communications on matters that concern our office.

What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The most satisfying part of my job is meeting and networking with the community and applying my technical skill sets to improve a project or a task. Whether it’s the City Services Fair, Grand Illumination, the Virginia Festival of the Book, Virginia Film Festival, an employee newsletter, or the many other City-partnered events we help coordinate throughout the year, I always try and seek new and creative ways to engage the community.

The biggest challenge of my job is meeting departmental obligations and expectations with limited resources. City communications encompasses so much, including (but certainly not limited to) media and public relations; coordinating City programs, services and initiatives; public, educational, and government television access operations; and all sorts of departmental requests that occur on a regular basis… that’s a lot for our small staff of four. But although we are limited in numbers, it doesn’t stop us from trying to achieve great things for the City and its community through creative and resourceful means. It really makes the job worthwhile when other, and many times larger, municipalities recognize our efforts and accomplishments.

How does your job most directly impact the average person?
One of our main missions as a department is to bridge the gap between the Charlottesville community and its government. Through mediums such as cable television, the web, print material, social media, etc. the public has a chance to learn about City programs, services, events, and initiatives every day.

Internally, my work is more predicated on a staff/department need, inquiry, or request. Responding to these requests in a timely and efficient manner is key to making sure projects get done on time and avoiding the dreaded ripple effect!

What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?
My most interesting work experience to date would have to be coordinating the Dalai Lama visit in October 2012. I met and worked with some truly fascinating people, and to have an event of that magnitude in our own backyard was really thrilling.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I had a near-death experience when I was living on St. Pete Beach, Florida in my mid-twenties. I was swimming in the gulf when I noticed a pack of manatees heading my way. These are very slow moving creatures, and I was thrilled to be able to experience them in their natural habitat. After about 20 minutes of this amazing encounter, I was ready to swim back in as I felt fatigue setting in, but a strong current grabbed me and started sweeping me out to sea. I was pretty much done for, as I lost all strength to stay afloat, but at the very last moment, a family who was collecting bait at the end of a long pier noticed me and threw me a line. I somehow managed to grab this line in choppy waters and held on for dear life until a boat came to my rescue.

I always think about that day and how miraculous it was that I was saved. I figured I was meant to stick around for a reason… I’m guessing it was for this interview.