May 18, 2012

TOUGH JOB: Communications Director, DC Councilman Marion Barry

Marion BarryWashington, DC Councilman Marion Barry is looking for a communications director. The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse looks at what interested candidates might expect through interviews with Barry’s former press secretaries. Their advice includes:

- “You have to be high energy,” says Linda Wharton Boyd, who was Mayor Barry’s communications director from 1997-1999. “There’s never a dull moment. . . . You have to hit the ground flying.”

- Make sure you’re a step ahead of him,” says Andre Johnson, a former Barry communications director. “He has a memory like a photo. Never promise him something and then forget to do it. Because he will not forget.  And he will haunt you.”

- Raymone Bain served as Barry’s press secretary in the mid-1990s and went on to represent many celebrities, including Michael Jackson.  She says Barry always appreciated her willingness to speak her mind.  “It was either Mrs. Barry or I who was saying, ‘You can’t say that; this is not the way to say that,’ ” Bain says.  Barry’s fourth wife, Cora, was his communications director.  Bain recalls one event where members of the community were airing their grievances, and he breezily responded, “Oh, well. People in hell want ice water, too.”  “I thought,” she says, “I would die.”  (Washington Post)

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    Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, D.C. and Austin,TX-based Republican strategist and communications consultant and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. In his career he has managed a winning Congressional campaign and worked in the U.S. Senate, at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at a leading international PR firm, on a presidential campaign in Iowa and in White House presidential advance. Follow him on Twitter - @MattMackowiak

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    Laura Gross is currently president of Scott Circle Communications. She has served as deputy director of communications at the DNC, was Gov. Howard Dean's Communications Director and she worked in the press office at USAID during the Clinton administration. Her experience also includes time in the PR department of National Public Radio and she was part of Vice President Gore's advance team when he was in The White House.
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    Blain K. Rethmeier is currently the Senior Vice President for Public Affairs for the American Insurance Association (AIA). Rethmeier joined AIA from the White House where he served as Special Assistant to the President for Communications and directed communications for the National Economic Council and Homeland Security Council. Prior to joining the White House, Rethmeier served as Press Secretary for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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