We’re wrapping up 2021 with our top stories, photos and opinion articles in the coming days. Today we’d like to say thank you to one person who made our lives easier in 2021.
Many public information officers think their job is to make their organizations and elected officials look good more than actually relating to and providing information to the public.
Some communicators act as if questions from journalists deserve not much more than condescending responses and diversionary attempts to “focus on the positive.” Some won’t respond at all.
Fortunately, many in the PR profession stay true to their title and actually focus on providing salient information to the public they’re meant to serve. The Washoe County Health District’s Scott Oxarart is one of those people.
He went above and beyond in 2021, and the year prior, by getting out desperately needed, timely information primarily about COVID-19 and vaccines. He facilitated, like clockwork, weekly media briefings to keep the community informed.
“He spent his birthday this year writing a press release about the 1,000th COVID death in Washoe County,” said Washoe County Public Information Officer Bethany Drysdale. “But he does this because it’s important to keep the community informed, and this is his calling.”
Vaccine availability, updated COVID-19 data and timely information about all things coronavirus in the Truckee Meadows were driven by Oxarart’s efforts.
“With less than six months of experience at the Health District, Scott faced the greatest public health emergency of our lifetimes and responded magnificently,” his boss Kevin Dick, the district health officer, said. “Throughout our COVID-19 response he has provided me with guidance, encouragement and support. I am so grateful that Scott joined the Health District when he did. I don’t know how we could have gotten through this without him.”
We echo the sentiment.
That’s not to say pandemic communications have been consistently smooth or always positive, but when we have a question for the health district, messages to Oxarart are quickly answered, and that means the world to us.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.