Government

Two state communications officers leave for private sector

Lost experience can hinder public's access to government information

The State Capitol is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The State Capitol is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Two public information officers with a combined 18 years of experience have left state government for private sector jobs.

Geoff Greenwood, who served as communications director for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller since 2010, and Tina Hoffman, who had been spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority during two stints totaling 10 years, recently took jobs in communications at MidAmerican Energy, based in Des Moines.

Greenwood, who worked as a reporter at television station KCCI in Des Moines for 20 years before going to work for Miller, said he loved his state job, but is looking forward to a “new and different portfolio of media matters.”

MidAmerican provides service to 770,000 electric customers and 751,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Communications staff are the conduits through which the public gets nearly all information from state agencies.

“Public information officers play an important role in Iowa government these days because top administrators are less accessible to journalists than they were a generation ago,” said Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. “It’s important PIOs fully understand their obligations under the open records and open meetings laws. They need to have the experience and confidence to stand up to their bosses when their agencies try to ignore the requirements of the sunshine laws.”

There has been high turnover among communications staff at several state agencies, including Public Safety, Workforce Development and Revenue.

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Other state departments, such as Public Health, Education and Inspections and Appeals, have kept veteran communications officers. Polly Carver-Kimm has been Public Health spokeswoman since 2007 after working 20 years in radio. Dave Werning has been the spokesman for Inspections and Appeals since 1993.

The Attorney General’s Office has hired Lynn Hicks, the Des Moines Register’s opinion and engagement editor, to succeed Greenwood, who was paid $100,000 last year. Jacque Matsen, previously an executive at a public relations and branding firm, is the new marketing and communications director at Economic Development, succeeding Hoffman, who was paid $129,000.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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