Runser Says Good-Bye to Town Hall

Runser Says Good-Bye to Town Hall

Although Robin Runser will no longer be the public information officer, she plans to stay involved with town.

Robin Runser has a large list of accomplishments for her last 10 years of work as the public information officer with the town of Herndon.

Along with her everyday responsibilities to manage the town's media relations, Runser helped create the town's Web site, coordinated community outreach activities, prepared key documents for the town — such as the "At Home in Herndon" calendar — and worked closely with Herndon residents to better the community.

Now, after working for eight years as a part-time contracted information officer and two years in a full-time position, Runser is leaving the town.

"It truly was a very difficult decision to reach," said Runser about her departure, which made Oct. 31 her last day.

"She has been unflappable," said Mayor Michael O'Reilly. "When everything is on the line and there is a lot of stress, she's able to handle it and not get flustered or stressed out."

Most recently, Runser has managed the town's public relations regarding the on-going day-labor site debates and the numerous media and resident inquiries.

"The whole last year, since this Town Council took office," said O'Reilly, "there have been a number of pressures put on her with the agenda this council has set."

During the bulk of the public hearings on the day-labor site application, Runser was responsible for fielding press calls, setting up interviews with elected officials and working with staff to advise them how to address the press.

"I am a one-woman department so when things like that occur, that's a full day for me," she said about fielding media calls during the hearings.

As a former employee of a political consulting firm, the mass media interest in the town was not unfamiliar territory.

A CALIFORNIA NATIVE and graduate of the University of California San Diego, Runser first moved to the Washington, D.C. area to intern on Capitol Hill. Because she studied politics in college, it was no surprise when Runser began working for a political consulting firm.

Once there she quickly realized she enjoyed the public relations side of the firm more than the political side.

Runser left that job to begin her career in public relations, which resulted in her living in the area for the last 20 years.

"Having worked in politics and in a political consulting firm," said Runser, "I was always involved in government in some capacity."

Her first public relations job was in trade, where she worked with the Virginia wine industry. It was not much later that Runser started her own consulting firm, RAR Communications, Ltd. One of her first clients was the Town of Middleburg.

Little did she know then that experience would prepare her for her position with the Town of Herndon.

In 1995 Runser began her part-time work as a contracted public information officer for the town. In 2003, Runser closed her consulting firm to work as a full-time employee.

"I think I could have foreseen that [working full-time]," she said. "After the first couple of years went by, they saw how important media relations were."

On top of writing multiple press releases a week, working with staff and elected officials, Runser also found time to help residents create groups to benefit the community.

One group was Vecinos Unidos/Neighbors United, an after-school homework assistance program run out of the Neighborhood Resource Center. During the organization's first years, Runser was known as "Miss Robin" by the children she helped tutor after school.

Runser also worked with residents to create the Cultivating Community Committee, the Yard of the Month Competition, Neighborhood Celebration month, the Good Neighbor award, the first Herndon Garden Tour that happened this spring and participated with Herndon Dogs.

"I AM GOING TO MISS working with her, she was and is a true professional," said Steve Owen, town manager. "She thinks about all angles of an issue and helps me process what our image is, and that's not an easy job."

Runser, who chose to leave because of family responsibilities, said she would also miss working with town representatives and seeing staff and community volunteers on a daily basis.

"I've enjoyed, in particular, working with both the Promote Herndon Committee and the Cultivating Community Committee," said Runser. "Without the resident volunteers who made themselves available, some of that work would not be done."

During her career, Runser's commitment to spotlighting the town's positive efforts has paid off, said Viki Wellershaus, town clerk.

"To me, Robin's most outstanding accomplishment is the improvement in communication between the town and the citizens," said Wellershaus, whose office worked closely with Runser.

Even though she will not be in the Herndon Municipal Center on a regular basis, Runser will stay active with Herndon's community groups that she helped promote through her position.

And, as a Loudoun County resident, she said she is not too far away. Ultimately, Runser would like to return to public relations, preferably for a non-profit organization, she said.

"I have been very fortunate that I've had such a variety of things to work on," she said about her time with the town.

"Her position is such a key element and a key position in the town," said Wellershaus. "I consider her a friend, so I'm going to miss the friendship."