City PIO smooths information flow to public

Finding information on city matters such as the latest road construction detours or budget numbers shouldn’t be a hassle or a mystery.

Robert Lindee, Minot’s public information officer, works to ensure that the public has the information that the city needs them to know, but he also strives to make sure residents have the information that they want to know.

“I want to be the hub of information for the city,” he said. “I want the public to be able to have that instant access to whatever information they need.”

Ultimately, his goal is to give residents a better understanding of their city government.

“I thought I was pretty informed until I started this job,” said Lindee, who was hired to fill the newly created position in January 2013. “I realized how much I didn’t know about what it takes to run this city. As I have been learning, I really want other people to learn that as well.”

Lindee has employed his film skills in creating YouTube videos that give people a glimpse of operations at the water treatment plant, fire department, airport and landfill.

“I have been telling people’s stories for years. That’s all I am trying to do here is trying to tell the city’s stories,” Lindee said. “I want the community to appreciate what the city employees do for them.”

Lindee, a veteran of Army operations in Iraq and Kuwait, previously has been involved in production for CBS Television in Los Angeles, Dorsey & Whitney law firm in Minneapolis and Results Unlimited and Reiten Television in Minot.

In his current position, Lindee uses a variety of tools to keep the public informed.

He manages the city’s Facebook page, which has increased its followers from 300 to more than 3,100 in the past year.

“That’s the fastest way, I think, for anybody to get information,” he said.

He also participates in a weekly radio show on KCJB every Tuesday at 1 p.m. to talk about city projects.

As more people begin to see him as their liaison in the city, he is getting more emails and phone calls. Lindee said his policy is to respond within 24 hours, either with an answer or a report on his efforts to get an answer.

Lindee attends city meetings and construction updates and meets regularly with department heads to stay abreast of the issues so he can immediately field most questions that the public has. If he doesn’t have the answer, he often can quickly find it, he said.

In some cases, he needs only to steer people to already available information. Public feedback can help him in determining where to place city information, he said.

“I am trying to listen to what people are telling me,” he said. “If they are looking places and not finding information, we will fix that.”

He also has identified information not previously available that people are indicating they want to know. The public’s interest in how road construction will affect their travel plans prompted Lindee to work with the engineering department to develop a weekly construction update that is made available to media and on the city website every Friday at 2 p.m.

These days, he tries to stay one jump ahead of the public in anticipating questions and getting information out before people call.

There are times when the public needs to go directly to a particular city department to obtain or provide information. However, Lindee wants to use his position to eliminate some of the frustration of residents who aren’t sure where to turn or who don’t feel their concerns are catching the city’s attention.

In the future, he hopes to see a redesigned, highly functional city website that will take public information access to a new level. That’s a project the city council could be addressing in funding its technology needs in the years ahead.