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Mayor's Image Consultant Quits

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Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's image consultant has a new look: former image consultant.

Antoinette Essa, who joined Wilder's press office a scant three months ago -- just before the disastrous attempt by Wilder to move schools out of City Hall Sept. 21 — is leaving.

Back when she was hired, Linwood Norman, the mayor's press secretary, said Essa was there as a public information officer. But City Council President Bill Pantele said he'd been told the NBC affiliate's former "12 About Town" hostess with the mostest was there as an image consultant. She was there to clean up the mayor's public face.

Asked about Essa's departure last week, Norman denied it: "No, she's still here. Call her, her extension is 0-5-2-4."

Technically, on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 20, this was true. Essa was still there — to confirm her departure. Asked what she'd be doing instead, she hesitated: "Ah, I don't know yet."

Essa would not comment on the circumstances of her departure, instead referring questions to Mike Wallace, the breadth of whose function in the mayor's media relations office remains unclear amid an apparent shake-up.

Three weeks ago, Style reported that Norman had been removed as head of Wilder's media relations department, but would remain as the mayor's personal press secretary. Wallace, whose official title is public information manager III, answers his phone as cable communications manager. He now functions as head of the media relations office and reports to new Chief Administrative Officer Sheila Hill-Christian.

"That's actually a city employment issue and I'm not at liberty to discuss," Wallace says of Essa, declining to explain why she's still answering her phone. "She is still currently employed. I can't really go into it."

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