California High-Speed Rail Authority to expand in-house staff, end agency search

SACRAMENTO, CA: The California High-Speed Rail Authority's board has voted to nix the search for an outside agency and move forward with a proposed expansion of its internal communications team.

SACRAMENTO, CA: The California High-Speed Rail Authority's board has voted to nix the search for an outside agency and move forward with a proposed expansion of its internal communications team.

Lance Simmens, deputy director of communications for the authority, said the decision to manage the work in-house will offer a “more streamlined and tightened communications system.”

The proposal includes a long-term plan to create three regional communications director positions. The staffers will serve as the primary spokespeople for the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California regions. They will each report directly to Simmens.  

The authority will also seek to fill its press secretary role, which was vacated earlier this week when Rachel Wall left the organization for Wal-Mart. Simmens also said he intends to create new positions, including an assistant director, a writer, a junior-level logistics support staffer, and three public affairs officers.

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark also announced his resignation at Thursday's meeting. Van Ark, who was hired in June 2010, will leave the organization within two months.

The decision to expand its in-house staff follows a number of re-issued RFPs as the authority has searched for a long-term agency partner to promote the state's $98.5 billion rail project. The authority last worked with Ogilvy PR Worldwide, which resigned the account in July 2011, saying it was “unable to develop a solid working relationship."

Following the vote, the board asked for a progress update at the authority's next meeting on February 2.

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