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Want Info? Take It to the Top

One call, one request — a single office fielding the questions.

"That's all I've ever known," Wilder says. "If you're speaking for the city government, then the city government should have a voice. It shouldn't be 100 voices singing and hoping to orchestrate into a blended note of harmony."

Is this a gag order for other city officials? Wilder says no.

"It's not a matter of control," he says. "You'll find my administration to be as open as any you've encountered."

The administration is also restructuring — and streamlining. Wilder's Committee on Efficiency and Effectiveness, led by Tina Walls, senior vice president of external affairs for Philip Morris USA, and S. Buford Scott, chairman of Scott & Stringfellow, is figuring out how the city can best meet its goals — and how much it should pay people to do so.

In this area, Wilder says he wants communication that is "open to the public, with candid, forward responses — period. Without ducking anything."

Michele Quander-Collins, who makes a salary of $87,924, leads the communications office of one part-time and four full-time staff members — including the recently hired Julie Bragg Sheppard, former co-anchor on WWBT-TV 12 news, who makes $50,000. The city spends a total of $297,988 on salaries for those staff members, according to the city's Human Resources Department.

Excluding their staffs, there are 12 other public information officers paid to get the word out whose departments include Police, Fire, Public Schools, Public Utilities, Public Works, Parks & Recreation, Public Health, the East District Initiative and the Public Library. Their salaries range from $37,980 for the library's Sharon Fuller to the school's Treeda Smith at $87,156.

And that's not to mention City Council's new spokeswoman, Felicia Cosby, hired at a salary of $50,000.

In all, the city is paying more than $1 million in salaries for the city's top public information personnel. Is it worth it? That's for the efficiency committee to decide, Wilder says. In the meantime, he wants to make sure that at least one umbrella office knows about all requests from the public for information — so it can react, he says. "That's the whole purpose of news and exchange."

The city's public information office can be reached at 646-7985. — Jason Roop

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