Huntington Beach promotes from within to fill new public affairs manager role

Jennifer Carey was previously the public information officer for the Huntington Beach Police Department.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

From answering phone calls to issuing press releases to clarifying things in Facebook groups, Jennifer Carey has been communicating with media and residents about Huntington Beach issues for the last several months.

Now she has taken on an expanded role with the city.

Carey has been promoted to Huntington Beach’s newly created position of public affairs manager. She has previously worked as the Huntington Beach Police Department’s public information officer since last May.

“With all of the events that have transpired over the last two years, beginning with COVID and most recently the oil spill and sewage spill, the city really saw that there was a gap in forms of more strategic and well-rounded communications outreach,” Carey said. “Due to that, they determined that it was necessary to create a new position, the public affairs manager, which would essentially oversee communications and public engagement on behalf of the city, from more of a high-level and strategic standpoint.

“As Huntington has grown and is going into a new kind of era, there’s a lot of sort of outdated means of communication. I think it was realized that we need to focus some attention and resources on developing and utilizing ... new tools and strategies as a means to better engage our residents and our community.”

Carey, 36, will work out of the city manager’s office. Huntington Beach has an interim city manager, Sean Joyce, after Oliver Chi resigned effective last month to take the same position in Irvine.

Late last year the city launched a new website, Surf City Break, to deliver news to its residents, while Huntington Beach’s city government website is set to be revamped this year.

As public affairs manager, Carey said she also plans to help build the city’s social media strategy.

“We want to utilize more of a strategic and campaign-driven outreach policy, to ensure that all of our bases are covered,” she said. “Every possible opportunity to get information out to the public, we want to be utilizing every single resource we have. It’s not enough anymore to just send out a tweet or a Facebook message, and assume that the correct audience is going to see it. It takes a lot more work than that. It takes utilizing every single communication resource that the city has at its disposal, to ensure that everyone possible sees the information.”

Carey said she will be working closely with Julie Toledo, who remains the city’s community relations officer.

The city is openly recruiting for someone to fill the HBPD public information officer position, and Carey will remain as the acting PIO until a replacement is found.

Eric Parra began serving as Huntington Beach’s new police chief last month.

“It’s a bittersweet change for me,” Carey said. “I’m really going to miss working with the police department and have developed a lot of good friendships and relationships with a lot of our officers and staff. But I know that in this new role, I’m only going to have an opportunity to do more for the city and assist the new PIO in promoting our officers even more.”

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