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Q and A: The face behind the publications

Danielle Cahlander has been Farmington's communications specialist for the past six years.

Over the past week, Farmington residents received a new publication from the city of Farmington, the City News and Recreation Guide. It replaces The Bridge newsletter and the parks and recreation brochures residents received in the past.

Danielle Cahlander is the woman behind those publications, and so much more. As the city's communications specialist for the past six years, Cahlander writes the newsletters and press releases, maintains the city's website, updates all social media and coordinates the printing of the annual city calendar.

We sat down with Cahlander this week to hear a little more about who she is and why she does what she does.

What did you do you before you came here?

I worked in the graphic design field for 20-plus years, but also worked in the arts as a gallery coordinator. I've done fine art printing, large format printing. That's my background. I also worked for a marketing company for many years, freelanced. That's basically it.

I had started out with an art degree and went back for graphic design to try and make a living.

When you applied here, then, how did you see this as something you'd be interested in?

That's a good question. When you're on a job search, you apply for lots of different things. The thing that appealed to me about this job was that it was actually a part-time position but I was told that it would go to a full time position.... I was looking for something a little more secure.

Now that I'm here, I really like selling city services and promoting the things that I believe are important to the quality of life of people. Rather than marketing. When you're working in a marketing company, sometimes you're doing ads for things that you don't believe in. What I've found is that I'm very passionate about working for government now, and I'd want to stay in government because I feel good about what I'm doing.

So what, exactly, is it that you do?

I work with the people here to try and learn about what departments and divisions are involved with so I can communicate that to the residents. I'm very reliant on the staff here. We all work together to do those things. If I hear something that's going on maybe at a council meeting or somebody gives me something on the website, I kind of try and figure out different ways to get that information out and coordinate that. Over the years, you get to know people and staff and you develop certain go-to people for things.

What kind of training have you gone through as your position has evolved?

I think that in this field you have to try and stay trained on current softwares, upgrades. You have to keep learning. Now with social media, there's always new challenges to learn new things and get the information out in a variety of ways to reach different audiences.

The new City News and Recreation Guide and The Bridge, those are things that go into residents' homes. I'm assuming that's a big project for you. Where do you get your copy that's in there?

People submit the information. First I ask for information based on things that I've heard from staff, things that are going on. They give me information, I read it over. You have size constraints, so I do some editing and they get it back so they can look at the edits. Then they make some further suggestions and we do it again. At the end, everyone gets an opportunity to review it before it goes to press.

We have a timeline for the publication.... What we do, we request information. We give staff a couple of weeks to get it back to me. Then we start laying it out. This last issue, we gave ourselves about three weeks to get that done. Then we give the printer a couple of weeks.... To answer your question, about a month and a half.

I know you update some of the information on the website, too.

I do the website. We have just one person that is responsible for maintaining the website and that person is me.

What about the social media? Do you update the Nixle, Facebook and Twitter accounts, too?

When we created the Facebook page, that was kind of my job to get it up and going. We have administrators that help with that, which is really nice. Different departments and division that can contribute information so when they give me something for (the City News and Recreation Guide) I'll say, "Can you take care of putting that on Facebook?" It's really nice to have help with that.

What's your favorite thing about working for the city of Farmington?

I think the people here. And, like I said, promoting things that I think are important, parks and recreation and the senior center and making sure that people know about services. I really love doing that. And trying to make things look nice. As nice as possible. There's always mistakes, but you do the best you can. I'm always learning. There's something that you learn each time that you try to improve the next time.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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