Colleen Merritt

Age: 36

City of residence: League City

Current title: Public relations specialist

Place of business: La Marque Economic Development Corporation

Education: Master of Arts, Digital Media – University of Houston-Clear Lake; Bachelor of Arts, Communication/Journalism – Stephen F. Austin State University; Santa Fe High School – Santa Fe Strong!

Family: I married my amazing husband, Gabe, on St. Patrick's Day 2012. We have two rescue dogs named Prince Harry and Prince William aka Wild Man Willie. We are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family. My mom lives about five minutes down the road from us, and we see Gabe's parents, sister and nephews most Sundays at church. It's a beautiful life.

Professional responsibilities: La Marque Economic Development Corporation’s goal is to create wealth for city of La Marque. This goal is accomplished by bringing new primary jobs to La Marque, attracting businesses that generate sales tax and enrich quality of life for our community. In my role as public relations specialist, my primary responsibility is showcasing the city of La Marque for what it truly is — a growing coastal city with amazing opportunity for business expansion and a community full of proud, hardworking people. My job is to spread the good news about La Marque and highlight what makes our city special.

As the city of La Marque’s public information officer, I have the honor of building relationships with stakeholders, communicating with members of the press, responding to citizen inquiries and replying to requests for information. I perform regular maintenance for our public access TV channel and the city website, manage social media, create editorial content and graphic design for the city’s media channels and publish a quarterly print newsletter called Inside La Marque.

I design promotional material for special events and programs, manage an every-other-week business spotlight video series and have a suite of property marketing videos in production. During times of emergency, I manage crisis communication on the Emergency Response Team.

The future is bright in La Marque. The city council approved a social media policy and brand style guide in 2018 — steps toward a stronger brand. The budding downtown revitalization project is heating up and residential growth to the west of I-45 is attracting retail development. Citizens and businesses should expect construction traffic as the Texas Department of Transportation’s I-45 expansion heads south, but the end result will be a new look along La Marque’s interstate corridor and major intersections.

Accomplishments/honors: I consider it a great honor to have received the 2019 Rising Star Award from Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce in January. According to the chamber, the Rising Star Award recognizes an emerging leader whose record reflects ongoing and exceptional growth in our community.

In February 2019, La Marque Economic Development Corporation was honored by Texas Economic Development Council in the 2018 Economic Excellence Recognition Program for dedication to strengthening the knowledge and skills of La Marque’s economic development professionals and volunteers who serve on the EDC Board. This is the second consecutive year LMEDC has been acknowledged.

Nominated for TAMI Award by Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers in May 2019. For more than a year, I partnered with La Marque Police Department, La Marque High School theatre program and a local videographer to create a meaningfully, memorable traffic stop video. Our goal was to show both perspectives of a traffic stop – from the driver and from the officer. At the end of the day, we want everyone to get home safely. The city of La Marque was named a finalist for the 2019 TAMI Awards in the category of Video, Special or One-Time Program, Population under 50,000. With a population of 16,500, we are competing with cities like Georgetown, Pflugerville and Burleson.

Upon direction of the La Marque city manager, I developed a comprehensive social media policy and brand style guide for the city of La Marque. The plans were approved and adopted by the city council in September 2018. While training and implementation are ongoing, our brand is becoming stronger by the day. I am extremely proud of this accomplishment and hope to continue redefining our perception and image in Galveston County, and beyond.

Completed Planning Foundations Course of the Texas Citizen Planner (TCP) program, a planning education program for locally elected and appointed officials. Texas Citizen Planner provides planning curriculum focusing on issues important to Texas communities. The Planning Foundations course covers legal authority, policy tools and best practices. Specialty knowledge tracks covering flood mitigation, storm water management and plan integration are also offered. This project is funded in part by a Texas Coastal Management Program Grant approved by the Texas Land Commissioner pursuant to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA18NOS4190153.

Community involvement: President elect, Kiwanis Club of La Marque; Board of Directors, Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce; Public Relations Society of America Houston Chapter; Public Relations Society of America Public Affairs and Government Section; Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers; Habitat for Humanity volunteer; Southeast Church of Christ member.

I recently applied to become an animal shelter dog walker and am waiting to hear back. Please wish me luck!

Why did you go into your particular field?

I'm one of those lucky people who has always known what I want to do. I've always been fascinated by public affairs and marketing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian until the age of 12. While attending "take your daughter to work day" with my dad, I met Phyllis Bledsoe, the director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston. Everything changed that day. I found my calling.

What was your first job?

McVay's Pizza and Subs in Santa Fe at the age of 15. I begged my parents to let me work because I wanted to start saving for a Chevelle and a cellphone. I got the cellphone ... still working on the Chevelle.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Just do the right thing. Words of wisdom from my daddy, Arthur Jay Martin.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

It's our people. I work for the people of La Marque and helping them is my favorite part of the job. That and seeing the steady positive change happening in La Marque is immensely gratifying.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your career?

We should always strive to meet aggression with compassion and information.

Who do you consider to be your greatest mentor and why?

Pat Spence was our Student Publications advisor at Stephen F. Austin State University when I was an editor for our college newspaper, The Pine Log. Pat is kind and brilliant. She is a problem-solver and a people-connector. She let us make mistakes and helped us learn from them. Pat had big-city jobs in the field of public relations before she became a professor at SFA. I hope to follow in her footsteps and become an educator later in my career.

When you’re not at work, what do you do to relax?

I find relaxation on the water, in the water or by the water. I also enjoy gardening and traveling.

What is something about you that most people don’t know?

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, and I love Alabama Crimson Tide Football. Most of my mother's side still lives in the Daphne-Fairhope area. ROLL TIDE!

How do you hope to grow in your career?

I believe education and staying in tune with trends is imperative to professional growth. I'd like to earn my Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) from the International Economic Development Council and complete the Certified Public Communicator Program from Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.

If you couldn’t do what you’re doing now, what would you be doing?

Teaching as a tenure track professor or a photographer.

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