In an effort to promote Belleville’s “image and branding,” the city has created a new position for a public relations and communications specialist who will start on Monday.
Jennifer Ferguson, who most recently served as director of campus communications and marketing for Lindenwood University-Belleville, was hired for the city’s new P.R. job.
“We’ve got a lot of good things going here and we need to highlight that, we need to shine our light on it and that’s what my role is going to be able to do,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson’s position was approved by the City Council by an 11-4 vote. The position has an annual salary of $52,000 and was not an advertised civil service job. Instead, it was an appointment by Mayor Mark Eckert.
“I want to make sure that we’re getting the story out about Belleville and about all the projects going on and about reaching out to potential new businesses,” Eckert said.
The public relations specialist “develops and maintains the city’s image and branding through social media and all methods of communication to further city growth,” according to the job description.
Other duties for the position include working to improve economic development and encourage people to buy homes in Belleville.
Ferguson also will be asked to represent the city at events that Eckert cannot attend and to assist Eckert and other employees with maintaining the city’s relationship with Scott Air Force Base.
“We need to go after the young millenials and professionals and do a little bit more of a serious marketing pitch to this group of people and to get them to come bring their young families and couples here because I think that, you know, we kind of sometimes are missing the boat in being aggressive along those fronts,” Eckert said.
And Ferguson said she will be “highlighting and elevating what we do so that we can get a fair snapshot of the city of Belleville, what it’s like to be a resident here, what it’s like to own a business here, what it’s like to potentially develop something here.”
City Council Vote
Here are the council members who voted for the public relations position: Joe Hazel in Ward 1; Carmen Duco and Jane Pusa in Ward 2; Scott Ferguson in Ward 3; Johnnie Anthony and Raffi Ovian in Ward 4; ‘Shelly’ Schaefer in Ward 5; Mary G. Stiehl in Ward 6; Phil Elmore and Dennis Weygandt in Ward 7; and Roger Wigginton in Ward 8.
Ken Kinsella of Ward 1 was absent for the vote. Also, Scott Ferguson is not related to Jennifer Ferguson.
Four aldermen voted against Eckert’s recommendation: Kent Randle of Ward 3; Ed Dintelman of Ward 5; Chris Rothweiler of Ward 6; and Roger Barfield of Ward 8.
Randle and Dintelman said they voted against the plan for similar reasons. They both said they didn’t have a problem with Ferguson personally.
“That vote was not personal, it was about the process,” Randle said.
“It just seemed like it was thrust upon the council without any consultation whatsoever,” he said.
Dintelman said he did not want to “push something through” without getting a chance to meet Ferguson beforehand.
Rothweiler also said he did not have a problem with Ferguson.
Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.