Three and a half weeks after a city water crisis that brought complaints about inadequate communications from Toledo City Council and the media, Mayor D. Michael Collins has hired a new public information officer, former Toledo-Lucas County Health Department spokesman Stacy Weber.
The administration announced her appointment Thursday, though she won’t start in the job until Sept. 10.
Ms. Weber, 29, of Toledo takes over the public information duties of Lisa Ward, who also serves as executive assistant to the mayor.
Ms. Weber will be paid $50,000, an increase from her salary of $43,680 at the health department. She turned in her resignation at the health department on Wednesday.
“Stacy brings a wealth of experience as PIO and will be an asset to our administration,” Mr. Collins said.
Ms. Weber has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health from the University of Toledo. She has been marketing coordinator and public information officer for the health department since 2011.
Ms. Weber did not return phone calls to her office and cell phone Thursday. When asked by the Blade, Ms. Ward said that because Ms. Weber is not on the job yet, she would not be available for questions.
Ms. Ward will continue to be paid her salary of $77,000 because she is picking up additional duties to replace the tasks of communicating with the news media and the public, Mr. Collins said.
Among those duties is preparing the administration’s legislation to be presented to city council and answering council’s referral questions, a job now handled by Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Mazur.
Mr. Mazur will pick up some of the duties of Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt, including oversight of the police and fire departments, because Mr. Reinbolt is being assigned to dedicate about 90 percent of his time to the Department of Public Utilities.
To pay for the additional job without increasing staff in the mayor’s office, the administration eliminated an administrative assistant position held by Jackie Brown, saving her $51,500 annual salary. Ms. Brown’s last day was Aug. 22.
Mr. Collins was elected last year on a campaign pledge to reduce the mayor’s office staffing by 30 percent.
Mr. Collins agreed that the city could have done a better job communicating with city council and the public during the Aug. 2-4 drinking water crisis. The city issued a do-not-drink advisory early on Aug. 2 when the liver toxin microcystin was detected at unsafe levels in city tap water.
The advisory was lifted two days later, but after creating a national news sensation and forcing some 500,000 consumers to quickly stock up on bottled water.
He declined to fault Ms. Ward, saying she had been given too many responsibilities.
“I don’t think you could have got a better PIO than when Lisa was handling the job,” Mr. Collins said.