Aspen’s director of communications steps down
The city of Aspen’s communication director has left her position after less than a year on the job.
Tracy Trulove, who was moved to the Pitkin County COVID-19 incident management team in March when Aspen experienced its first outbreak of the virus, will continue working for the county on a contract basis.
Her last day with the city is Friday. She filled the newly created position last July.
Trulove said she realized when working with the incident management team that she is stronger in crisis communication than in government strategy messaging.
“I didn’t understand what the challenges of working for a municipality were and I didn’t recognize how political municipalities are, so that was a surprise to me,” she said Wednesday.
Aspen City Council members lobbed some heavy criticism toward the incident management team during an April 7 meeting, saying that it wasn’t forthcoming enough with information and lacked adequate communication with the community on COVID-19 testing.
The information elected officials were seeking was available on the county’s website, had appeared in news articles and was circulated in City Hall communication channels, but apparently it wasn’t enough.
It was about that time when Trulove started looking at her next career move.
“I started inquiring about opportunities that would have me working on something different,” she said. “There was a certain level of uncertainty I felt about returning to my position at the city.”
Trulove is a on a month-to-month contract with the county to lead the COVID-19 communications team as the community moves through the recovery stage of the virus.
When the virus outbreak occurred in early March, it took the county’s public health department and incident management team several weeks to get a handle on the crisis as it was receiving contradictory information and guidance from the state, which was getting the same from the federal government.
In response, the city assigned several people to the county’s team to help with public information, operations, logistics and planning.
Trulove, who prior to working for the city was the communications manager at the Colorado Department of Transportation, has served on the Pitkin County incident management team for over two years focusing on X Games and the Lake Christine Burn Scar response.
So continuing on in that same type of work with COVID-19 seemed natural, Trulove said.
In an email to city department heads on Wednesday, Alissa Farrell, the municipal government’s administrative services director, wrote that “we value her contributions along with her help in getting Pitkin County IMT through the first 15 weeks of COVID. Now that we are beyond the IMT, Tracy’s new direction and strengths as a PIO have led her to focus on her own consulting company.”
Trulove had been working for the city developing a community engagement plan, along with short-, mid- and long-range goals around communications strategies.
Farrell said she and City Manager Sara Ott are assessing how to move forward with the communications department structure, but they do plan to fill the position, although it may be retitled to strategic communications director.
“Community engagement still remains critical,” Farrell said on Thursday. “There are all of these irons in the fire that we are still working on and it’s moving forward but at a slower pace.”
The position was created in the fall of 2018 after the city encountered a series of missteps in communicating with the public.
The position also was created to help the city with messaging on numerous initiatives across 20 departments, which had been handled by one person, Mitzi Rapkin, the city’s communications manager.
Rapkin will remain in her current role, with a salary of just over $94,500.
Trulove was making $110,000 a year as the city’s communications director.
Farrell said Rapkin did a good job managing communications for the city amid COVID-19, with some help from other departments.
Now she’ll help upper management come up with short- and long-term goals for a communications strategy for the city that is COVID-19 specific as well as general.
“We as a staff are pretty agile,” Farrell said. “We want to be addressing this holistically.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.