Press secretary exits California High-Speed Rail Authority

SACRAMENTO, CA: Rachel Wall, press secretary for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, has left the organization for a PR position at Wal-Mart.

SACRAMENTO, CA: Rachel Wall, press secretary for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, has left the organization for a PR position at Wal-Mart. The move comes as the authority is looking for approval to restructure its communications department in lieu of hiring an outside agency.

"It's going to be a tremendous loss," said Lance Simmens, deputy director of communications at the authority. "She was an extremely hard worker, took her position very seriously, and took the position of the California High-Speed Rail Authority very seriously."

The organization will soon begin to look for Wall's replacement, Simmens added. She left the authority on Wednesday.

It was immediately unclear what position Wall, who declined comment, took at Wal-Mart.

Last month, the authority's in-house communications management recommended it not award its statewide outreach and PR contract to an outside firm, instead expanding its internal staff.  

It decided in October to throw out its most recent RFP and start over. That agency search process began in July after Ogilvy PR Worldwide terminated a $9 million, four-and-a-half-year contract with the organization. The authority issued a new RFP valued at $4.5 million in late August.

The proposed organizational restructuring is up for approval at a Thursday rail authority meeting. It calls for a range of communications positions that would fall under Simmens, including an assistant communications director, two information officers, a writer, a press secretary, an information officer, and a logistics support staff member. The assistant communications director, writer, press secretary, and logistics support positions are all vacant. 

The proposal also calls for the establishment of three separate regional communications directors, all reporting to Simmens. The employees “eventually will contract directly with the authority and have budgets attached to the position to cover expenses of activities such as hearings, workshops, meetings, and general public-outreach functions,” according to authority documents.

A Wal-Mart representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

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