ANALYSIS: Profile - Mindel helped the mayor keep the worldinformed

New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has been championed as a great

communicator. Jim Edwards finds out about Sunny Mindel, the woman

responsible for delivering his messages.



There can be no doubt that the busiest PR executive in the world right

now is Sunny Mindel, press secretary to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Since September 11, Mindel has been assisting the mayor as he

communicates with the world's media regarding the terrorist attacks on

the World Trade Center.



Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates, says, "They say that after the

President, being mayor of New York is the number-two job in the country.

If that's the case, then Sunny Mindel has the second most difficult PR

job in the country."



Paul, who is currently working with an unnamed federal agency involved

in the World Trade Center investigation, describes the difference

between Mindel's role and that of her predecessor, Cristyne

Lategano-Nicholas.



"Cristyne was very active in advising the mayor, but they stripped the

role of that" after many government officials became upset with the kind

of power Lategano-Nicholas wielded, Paul explains. "They wanted more of

a messenger - someone who knew the players and got along with

journalists."



While Giuliani was praised for his communications skills on September

11, Mindel was there helping to organize the briefings. As an

ex-journalist and former director of public affairs for the Office of

Emergency Management, Mindel is used to springing into action. In fact,

she was nearly a victim of the attacks. After the first jet hit the twin

towers, Mindel, who was a few blocks north at city hall, hopped into a

car and rushed to the scene to meet Giuliani. She arrived just before

the second plane hit, and with debris raining down everywhere, Mindel

and Giuliani ran along West Street, looking for a working telephone.

They ended up on Barclay Street.



As the first tower collapsed, a security guard led them through a series

of basement tunnels. They emerged at 100 Church Street, and soon

thereafter held the first press conference of the day, both the mayor

and Mindel covered in dust. They watched the second tower fall before

they moved again - to a firehouse on Houston Street and 6th Avenue.



Since then, the press office has operated from a command center at

Manhattan's Pier 92 at 53rd Street. (Police guarding the base denied

PRWeek access to Mindel, making her unavailable to comment for this

story).



With the communications hurdles of the September 11 tragedy beginning to

recede, Mindel has a new problem: the 2001 mayoral election. Mindel's

own $120,000-a-year job at city hall is surely tied to whether

Giuliani decides to retain control - assuming he's able to despite the

two-term limit. Last week, the New York press was abuzz with the

possibility that Giuliani may somehow remain in city hall.



As with many powerful leaders, being press secretary to Giuliani has

involved the inevitable questions about his personal life. Prior to the

disaster, Giuliani was at the center of stories about his relationship

with drug company executive Judi Nathan, his living arrangements, and

his prostate cancer.



Should Giuliani decide not to seek a third term, Mindel will undoubtedly

be courted by groups that need lobbyists and communicators with

experience at a national level. She can certainly offer one of the most

prized Rolodexes of movers and shakers in New York.



But Paul says her biggest problem on the job is that Giuliani has a

tight grip on the information flow, and that's an issue for the

reporters she deals with. In fact, her reputation among reporters

covering city hall for New York's major newspapers is mixed. Of course,

political spokespeople and the press will always be at loggerheads, but

as one reporter (who asked not be named) says, "Everybody that covers

city hall is frustrated at getting information when you need it." The

source adds, "(She's) just glossing over the facts, (and) she's hard to

reach."



Mindel has her defenders, however. "I actually get along with her very

well. She's never been anything but nice to me," says Maggie Haberman, a

political reporter at the New York Post.



Senior political correspondent Joel Siegel of the New York Daily News'

agrees. "She's been fair with me. I've been aggressive at times in

covering the mayor ... I never pulled any punches, and I never thought

she held that against me." He does note, though, that "there are

reporters that have grievances with her." (It should be stated that

Siegel went to college with Mindel at the University of Pennsylvania,

and the two became friendly when she was a city hall reporter for

WNYC-TV.)



Mindel appears to inspire a sort of loyalty from those who knew her

before she became the mayor's "pit bull," as The Greenwich Village

Gazette once wrote. Her friends from Highland Park High School in New

Jersey even swap news about her on a Yahoo! bulletin board. "She is a

lot fun, but incredibly intense. Her personality suits her work

perfectly," says one post.



And Mindel rewards those who have stayed on her good side. For instance,

late in the day on September 11, Siegel, with an hour to deadline,

called Mindel and asked her to reconstruct the mayor's day for him. She

talked for 15 minutes. "As a reporter, that's exactly what I need, and

she had every excuse in the world not to help me," Siegel says.



SUNNY MINDEL



1976: BS, University of Pennsylvania

1977-1996: Various non-PR jobs: city hall reporter for WNYC-TV, writer

for Lifetime cable television, advertising copywriter

1996-1997: Press secretary for the New York Department of Information

Technology and Telecommunications

1997: Chief spokesperson and press secretary for Mayor Rudolph

Giuliani's reelection campaign

1997-1999: Director of public affairs for the New York Mayor's Office of

Emergency Management

1999-present: Press secretary to Mayor Giuliani



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