Bob Stahlke and his team are the
hub of information for Sevierville
We live in the Information Age. Like our parents who lived through the Jet Age and the Nuclear Age, we’ve seen the world transformed by information and its rapid retrieval.
Bob Stahlke is one of the people charged with making that change happen, and making it work for the citizens of Sevierville.
Stahlke is the Public Information Officer for the city of Sevierville, and he sits at the center of a web of information, highlighted by Sevierville’s forthcoming policies on providing key knowledge to its citizens and media outlets.
“One thing I’m thankful for in my position is that our city is very open and forward with information, and I find that gratifying,” Stahlke told The Herald.
But information distribution is far from the only responsibility of his office. Together with Director of Information Services Jim Deanda, and computer technician Kelly Colbert, Stahlke oversees all the computer systems used by city employees, and monitors the health of the hardware and software on each system. They must also administer the network that ties all these machines together, and the servers on which the vital information needed to run a bustling city is stored.
His office is also responsible for the security systems throughout city properties, including the infrared/keycard system currently in use. They also administer the city telephone system. They make sure that city employees get the information they need to do their jobs correctly, and answer questions from the general public, as well as being the first line of contact for major media outlets. And they administer the city’s website, the first point of contact for many people desiring to visit or relocate to Sevierville.
If all this seems a bit overwhelming for a team of three persons, Stahlke takes it all in stride.
“One of the most challenging things I do is to balance my different tasks and responsibilities,” Stahlke commented. “A traditional PIO job would certainly involve dealing with the media and public relations, but with the great staff we have here, we can do a lot more.”
A lot more is certainly what they do. For example, one recent innovation Stahlke’s office has come up with is an e-mail alert, sent to all the pertinent media outlets, whenever a traffic accident occurs within the city. It keeps radio listeners apprised of potential traffic snarls, and helps route cars around trouble spots.
Like most things of this nature, it’s a group effort.
“Kelly Colbert wrote the software that runs that program,” Stahlke said. “She would want me to remind you that it’s the dispatchers who are taking a few seconds out of their busy time to send those out. It’s really a team that makes it all work.”
The project stemmed from a perceived need, and Stahlke and his office are ready to answer each call of this nature. For instance, the city’s planning department needed a media packet to distribute to businesses that are looking to relocate to the Sevierville area. They needed a complete picture of what it’s like to live and work in Sevierville.
“We got them demographics, city financial health information, details on roads, schools, and housing, hospitals, recreation, and also the base of potential employees they would have to draw from,” Stahlke said.
Having a hand in most every project the city undertakes is another aspect of his job that Stahlke finds pleasing. By way of example, he pointed to the city’s recent CBID project. “Our department put those media packets together,” he said, “so we had an opportunity to help make it happen.”
Before moving into his present position, Stahlke was the Superintendent for Parks and Recreation, a post he held from 1987 to 2001, when he accepted his current job. He’ll be the first to tell you it’s the team around him that make his success possible.
“I couldn’t do my job without them,” Stahlke said. “Being a three-person department and having as many responsibilities as we do, plus the numerous new things that are given us on a daily basis means we all have to work together well or it wouldn’t get done.”
Stahlke also realizes that information must flow both ways. “We actually have two groups of ‘customers,’ and deal with the information needs of both citizens and city employees.”
The only thing certain about the road ahead for the information gurus is that change will inevitably occur, and adapting to changes must remain a priority. Information technology is evolving rapidly, and new solutions are on the horizon.
“One huge change in the way we do our jobs was the widespread acceptance of the internet,” Stahlke explained, “and we all appreciate how it’s become an incredible resource. There are several things we don’t have online yet that we’d like to.”
“As information technology changes, my job will too,” Stahlke said, referring to the future. “But a big part of my job will always be meeting and talking with people one-to-one and I’ll always be available for that.”
The human touch is, after all, one of the reasons Stahlke and his crack team are so good at what they do.
“I love living and working here,” he said. “It’s a great place to be. I hope to be here for a lot longer and to enjoy the growth that our city is destined for.”