Thursday, March 17, 2016

City hires its Monique Cotton replacements — plural.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 5:01 PM

Last year, when Spokane Police Department Spokeswoman Monique Cotton mysteriously switched to become marketing and communication manager for the Parks Division, it left a void in the police department. 

For nearly a year, the void in the police department was covered by Public Information Officer Teresa Fuller. 

And when Cotton resigned from the Parks Division last month, frustrated over being required to reapply for her parks position, it left another void.
Michele Anderson, Spokane's new Public Safety Division Communication Manager - LINKEDIN.COM PHOTO
  • LinkedIn.Com photo
  • Michele Anderson, Spokane's new Public Safety Division Communication Manager

But now, through a single search process, both those voids have been filled. 

Michele Anderson, the communication manager for a school district in Reno, will take over the Public Safety Division Communication Manager position, which has now been expanded to also cover the fire department.

Anderson has hands-on experience with public safety: One or her first jobs with the city of Reno was as a police, fire and animal control dispatcher. 

After she moved to an official communications position with the city of Reno, she says, a major round of layoffs meant she became, effectively, the only public information officer the city had.

"I would go out on police and fire calls," she says. That included responding to the horrific Reno Air Races crash in 2011 that left 11 dead and dozens wounded. International news outlets flooded in the scene, meaning she had to deal with them as well as the local TV stations and newspapers.

"My priority is always local media first." Anderson says. 

She says she takes transparency and accuracy very seriously. 

"No matter what agency that you're working for, you’re really working for your community and your citizens," Anderson says. "If it’s controversial or political, [it's important to make] sure you’re keeping your community informed. Whether it’s good news or bad news, your community should be hearing that from your agency.... I work for the taxpayers. " 

For the record, she is not the Michele Anderson convicted of murdering six family members in rural Washington state.

Anderson earned rave reviews from Fuller. 

“I was privileged enough to sit on her interview,” says Fuller, who will still be serving as a public information officer. “She’s a great gal. She’ll be reporting to both the police department and the fire department. She very much understood [how important it] is to have a good balance between a uniformed and civilian PIO.”
click to enlarge Fianna Dickson, a communications specialist at Inland Northwest Health Services, will take over the Parks Division Communication Manager position. - PROVIDED BY FIANNA DICKSON
  • Provided by Fianna Dickson
  • Fianna Dickson, a communications specialist at Inland Northwest Health Services, will take over the Parks Division Communication Manager position.

Fianna Dickson, meanwhile, will take over Cotton's vacated position in Parks. 

Dickson knows Spokane well. Over a decade ago, Fianna Dickson was a former Ferris Lilac PrincessMiss Spokane and Miss Washington, who's career ambition included becoming "a public relations executive and university professor."

Consider those ambitions fulfilled.

Most of her professional experience is in the health care industry. She's been a communications specialist at Inland Northwest Health Services and the Director of Public Relations for the Hope Heart Institute in Seattle. She's also worked for Confluence Health in Wenatchee, and taught university communication courses as an adjunct professor.

"I'm just really excited to dig in and learn," Dickson says.

"The focus has to be transparency," Dickson says. "That’s the heart of communication."

Dickson's starting salary of $78,842.88 is about $21,000 less than Cotton was being paid last year for her Parks Communication Manager position out of the police department budget. The $9,000 raise Cotton received when hired for the newly created position attracted skepticism and scrutiny even before reporters uncovered that, in a closed-door meeting with the mayor, she had alleged sexual harassment from former Police Chief Frank Straub. 

Anderson's salary, meanwhile, will begin at $89,491.68

The city, however, still doesn't know the full bill for the controversial Cotton move. In December, the former Parks Division spokeswoman, Nancy Goodspeed, sued the city for $1 million for age discrimination, arguing Goodspeed had effectively been demoted by Cotton's transfer.  
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