Lake County’s loss is Chaffee County’s gain. The county has hired Beth Helmke, as its first-ever public information officer (PIO) who began work last week.
The creation of a formal role to handle the dissemination of county information has been discussed for years. But it took a continuing COVID-19 pandemic and continued county growth before the Board of County Commissioners took the step to centralize the role.
“I’m looking forward to working with everyone, and helping to shape the framework for a strong flow of information to the community,” she said.
Helmke, who lives in Buena Vista, admits that it will be nice to work in the county where she lives, rather than commuting north to Lake County. Her most recent role was as director of a small public health-focused nonprofit for Lake County Government. From that role she rolled over to serve as the Lake County Public Information Officer as well.
“Both positions allowed me to use my twin passion — community engagement and collaboration,” she said. She adds that while she hasn’t yet had the time to formulate a communications plan, she’ll be meeting with Chaffee County’s individual department heads to review their goals and needs.
Obviously, at this point in time, the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19 will be taking up a lot of attention across the state, and the county. Among the critical information needs, says Helmke, is good information for the public, not just about the continued testing needs, but timely information about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. With the many curve balls thrown to Colorado counties about the vaccine supply and the recent news that the vaccines that had been said to be held in a federal vaccine reserve does not exist, transparency will be more important than ever.
Helmke’s professional background weaves together leadership roles in scientific publishing, education, finance, and nonprofit sectors. She holds degrees in Molecular Biology (University of Colorado Boulder) and Nonprofit Management (Regis University).
When she’s not working, Helmke can most often be found out running on the trails, seeking high summits, playing on the river, and volunteering with Chaffee County Search and Rescue – North.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org