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Public Information Office (1970-) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Public Information Office (1970-)
Variant Name: San Diego Public Information Office

Historical Note:

In 1970, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors became aware that the public lacked understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of the county government.  The County Board of Supervisors established the San Diego Public Information Office (PIO) which was developed into a public relations firm under the Chief Administrative Office and charged with creating a communications program for San Diego County government.  Frank Aleshire was elected as Chief Administrative Officer for the County in 1973, and oversaw the PIO for two years.  During which time the PIO developed and began implementing a broad, comprehensive public information program for the County.  In order to perform the tasks, the office was divided into four units: Media, Publications, Public Affairs, and Staff Services.

The Media unit was responsible for providing information and assistance to the news media servicing San Diego county public broadcasting and news releases.  Media created and distributed news releases to local newspapers for events and programs put on by various County departments.  The Publications unit provided slide shows, audio-visual programs, and pamphlets for projects around San Diego.  The skits and shows were used by different community outreach programs.  The Public Affairs unit developed and implemented programs designed to communicate directly with various community groups and to coordinate with the planning department.  In the 1970’s, many communities were built across San Diego and the Public Affairs unit recorded and distributed the notices, agendas, and minutes of all the community planning groups and the development agencies.  Staff Services provided specialized clerical support for the whole department.  Staff Services paid and kept information about vendors, made reports and budgets for the office, and distributed that information to the County.

San Diego County underwent many changes in the 1970's, some motivated by budget cuts and job freezes.  Fred Christensen came in as Public Information Director in the early 1970's interested in re-evaluating the program and re-designing it, and Hal Peyer, Assistant Director was hired in 1975 to help reformulate the program.  In the late 1970's, the PIO was moved into the County's Program Development Agency along with several other departments.  Since the 1980's, the Public Information Office moved several times.  In 1997, the Board of Supervisors developed the Department of Media and Public Relations (DMPR) to ensure information about county issues,  programs and services move quickly  and accurately to the public, employees, and news organizations.  In 2010, it was re-organized and re-named the County Communications Office and is responsible for media and public relations for the County of San Diego, including emergency communications, media relations, news releases, news letters, publications and several major multimedia Board presentations.  While the Office's responsibilities have remained the same, its name, job titles, and staffing structure have reflected changing times and the importance of the internet as an important communications vehicle.

Note Author: Lanae McElfresh (Intern)

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