The city of Aspen has hired Tracy Trulove, who has been the regional communications director for the Colorado Department of Transportation since 2013, for its newly-created director of communications position.
Trulove, a resident of Glenwood Springs, will start July 1.
The position was “created in response to both council’s and the community’s need for more robust information from the city,” says a press release issued Thursday announcing Trulove’s hire. “The communications director will be responsible for the management and strategy of citywide communications, public outreach and engagement.”
Trulove said she is excited to join the city and became interested in the role — which has been in the planning stages since last fall — after working with the incident management team run through Pitkin County that oversees the X Games, which includes a number of city employees. She said she was impressed with the quality of people she interacted with and the level of professional interaction between agencies.
Trulove grew up in Carbondale and said she spent some time in college working as a lift operator on Aspen Mountain.
“What is there not to love [about Aspen]?” she said. “I used to stand on Aspen Mountain with my toes cold and think I will have a job here someday where they will be warm.”
Through her work with CDOT, Trulove has communicated regularly with the Aspen community regarding the opening and closing of Independence Pass and other transportation initiatives. She has been the point person for public information when a rockslide closes Glenwood Canyon or another area highway. She noted that she has handled numerous difficult issues that were potentially polarizing, including the project to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge and work to install a new roundabout in Glenwood Springs.
She said she was in no position to evaluate what was done right or wrong in the various cases that led to the perceived need for a better communications strategy from the city. These included a number of progressive transportation initiatives — such as expanding bike lanes at the expense of on-street parking and a plan to subsidize ride sharing and ride hailing — that lacked buy-in from some affected constituencies and never got off the ground.
Generally, Trulove said her approach to controversial topics is to actively engage the public through meetings and other channels and get to the heart of why people are concerned. Such outreach often entails figuring out where projects are not well understood and correcting any misinformation.
Much of Trulove’s job will be focused inward, helping set the city’s communications strategy, and she said her top priorities for her first 100 days include learning about the nearly two dozen city departments and what their communications challenges entail. She also wants to do a top-to-bottom communications audit to see what is going out via printed materials or online.
Trulove noted an assessment put together by interim city manager Sara Ott that found numerous different social media channels connected to the city; some individual departments have their own Facebook and Twitter feeds. Having so many different channels may spread the city’s message too thin or dilute it, Trulove said.
City human resources director and interim assistant city manager Alissa Farrell echoed Trulove’s thoughts about her mandate for the job’s early going.
“Initially, she will be engaging our departments and community stakeholders to gather information and learn about their needs, with the goal of creating one cohesive and strategic voice to serve our community,” Hall wrote in an email.
Trulove’s position will pay $110,000 annually and comes with the city’s well-rounded benefits package. Some 70 people applied for the job. The city already has a director of community relations, but that role was not seen as enough to handle the communications needs of an organization with 325 employees and a $139 million annual budget.
As she already lives in the valley, Trulove will not be paid relocation assistance and she is not looking to move into a city-owned housing unit. She noted that she has two kids in high school in Glenwood Springs and a third who is a sophomore in college.
Trulove graduated from Colorado State University in 1989 with a degree in journalism and public relations, according to a copy of her resume handed out at an open house last week. Her first job out of college, which she held for six years, was with the Walt Disney Attractions company, managing marketing and public relations at Disney theme parks in Florida and France.
She worked for a year ending in October 1995 at the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly; the firm was connected to Paul Manafort, who was President Trump’s 2016 campaign manager who is now serving prison time for financial crimes. She said that while the work was interesting, the D.C. lifestyle wasn’t for her and she moved back to Colorado.
Trulove next worked for about a year at The Aspen Institute’s Aspen Meadows campus as an associate development director, and she worked for Gannett Broadcasting in Denver as a marketing and research assistant in the late 1990s. She started her own photography business in Glenwood Springs in 2000 that specializes in weddings and senior portraits.
Trulove got back into more public facing roles in 2012 when she worked with a sexual assault response team convened by the 9th Judicial District. The position, which she said she enjoyed because of the public safety component and the people she worked with, was grant-funded and therefore short-term. She landed the job with CDOT in November 2013.
Working with CDOT has been great, she said, “and I’m not leaving because I’m not happy.” Instead, she saw working for the city of Aspen as chance to grow professionally. While CDOT’s role is well defined, the city has wide-ranging initiatives, from engineering and infrastructure projects, to the police department, to community planning and recreation.
The city’s press release says that Trulove was selected from three finalists for her experience implementing strategic communications, crisis communications and media and customer relations.
“I am excited for the expertise that Tracy will bring to the community conversation in Aspen,” Ott said in the press release. “Her local ties and years of experience working with CDOT are assets to help serve the needs of our community.”