SHERIDAN — Public information officers work for agencies to help connect the public with the professionals. Media outlets work hand-in-hand with these public relations professionals on a daily basis, but the positions serve the community beyond media needs.
Recently-hired Wyoming Game and Fish Department public information specialist Christina Schmidt has been interested in wildlife communications since college. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with wildlife and journalism degrees.
“For me, I felt like that’s where my strengths were,” Schmidt said. “I liked to write; I liked to teach people about wildlife, talk about wildlife, so that was just an easy fit for me.”
Immediately after college, Schmidt worked directly under Warren Mischke, who served in what Schmidt’s position is now.
She helped Mischke organize educational programs and programs hosted at the WGFD visitor’s center. Her position stands out particularly for its multiple purposes.
“I kind of have the best of both worlds,” Schmidt said. “I get to go and follow everyone else as they do fun stuff in their jobs and then come back and tell the public about it.”
Because of Mischke and Schmidt’s immediate predecessor, Bud Stewart, Schmidt said the community is used to utilizing the department as a resource for outdoor or wildlife information. Even with a solid program in place, Schmidt said she still has a lot to learn and catch up on in the position.
Suzan Guilford also stepped into a public relations position with the U.S. Forest Service. Guilford worked in administrative support services for years in the region before moving into the public affairs position for a 120-day detail.
Sara Evans Kirol took over as PAO when Susie Douglas retired. Evans Kirol served both the PAO position and worked trails for the USFS and has since returned exclusively to trails work.
As a less permanent position, Guilford will use her 120 days to see if her skillset fits in with what the position requires. One learning curve she’s recognized is the use of social media for the forest service.
Guilford, like Schmidt, enjoys working with other colleagues in the field and presenting what they are doing to the public.
“There’s a lot of information out there and I have to get to know what (other forest service employees) do and gather information directly for the public,” Guilford said.
Schmidt’s position also allows for her to bring educational programs to schools. She intends to reach out to an adult crowd and involve them in wildlife education, too.
In her experience with programming for the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Schmidt saw great attendance by adults in her wildlife presentations. The benefit for both Schmidt and Guilford is the region’s interest in the outdoors and the wildlife inhabiting it.
“One thing I think that’s great about where we live is people see wildlife a lot,” Schmidt said. “Yes, there are conflicts, but for the most part I think people really enjoy seeing wildlife and want to know more about it, which I think puts us in a good position that people want information about wildlife and the issues surrounding it.”
Schmidt and Guilford are ready to jump into their new roles and be liaisons between citizens and the great outdoors.