The city of Anniston has a new employee whose job is to handle information.
Aziza Jackson, who has lived in the city for a little over a year, is taking over as the city’s first-ever public information officer. Originally from Los Angeles, Jackson received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. She went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Alabama. A former reporting intern for The Anniston Star, Jackson was most recently the media and communications specialist at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega.
The position pays roughly $49,600 a year. Jackson officially started work Tuesday and already has plans to market the city to prospective residents, tourists and businesses, mainly by overhauling the city’s website.
“That website, it’s your business card. It’s everything,” Jackson said. “If I’m going to do business there, if I’m going to shop, I need to know what’s up-to-date, I need to know what developments are up-to-date. Your having content from years ago is not going to give me the best impression.”
Jackson also intends to market Anniston by using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She will also ask for participation from city residents in the flow of information. Another of her ideas is “Hello Anniston,” which would allow residents to take pictures of the city, which would then be posted to any of the city’s social media accounts.
Jackson said she understands there are difficulties that come with her position as well, including dealing with the city’s history with Monsanto and its reputation as “Toxic Town, USA.”
“‘Toxic Town’ sounds so terrible, but I understand there is a history there,” Jackson said. “That history has been checkered with some not-so-great stuff. You want to talk about race relations, you want to talk about Monsanto, and I think the best part of that is, history. That’s something that is in the past.”
Still, City Manager Brian Johnson said he believed Jackson was more than capable of handling the job. Johnson gave numerous reasons Jackson was the clear favorite for the position.
“Experience, poise, education, vision of what the city’s vision would entail,” Johnson said. “There’s so much of that. There’s a lot of intangible stuff.”
Jackson said she intends to make information more available within the city as well, including notifying residents of upcoming events and other important information. It was one of the main reasons the city hired a public information officer in the first place.
Jackson recognizes it will likely take “a few months” to update the website and possibly the end of the year to get many residents to follow and interact with the city’s social media accounts. Still, Jackson said, she’s up to the challenge.
“It’s going to take a community effort,” Jackson said. “I’m ready to go.”