Community advancement coordinator enjoys new role

There has been a new, yet familiar, face at Newton City Hall these past six months. On July 1, Barb Burns, former grant writer for the Newton school district, stepped into the role of community advancement coordinator for the city.
As the city revamped its administrative team, the desire for a unique type of marketing and communications position was raised. The role is not traditional for city administrations, being more common for non-profit organizations.
Burns sees her job description in two parts. The first is to make citizens feel proud of Newton. The second, to make people outside the city limits aware of what Newton can offer.
With the construction of a new hotel and conference center, Kansas Logistics Park, new fire station, and the ReNewton Project to re-market the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan, the city wanted someone who could communicate these projects to the wider community.
“Newton hasn’t done much for many years,” she said. “All of a sudden, a lot is happening, and they simply were short-staffed in telling the story.”
Burns found that, in a city of just less than 7,200 households, garnering community response can be difficult at times. Having been an English teacher for 24 years, she found her background as an educator a good fit for her new role.
“If I have 30 kids in my class, I want 30 kids engaged. That doesn’t help in this work. I thought I’d get people standing in line to be apart of our committees,” she said.
Burns’ biggest obstacle as community advancement coordinator has been the common anthem of residents who complain about not knowing what is happening in Newton.
“I think that is the whole part of this job that I’m trying to get my arms around. I think people can accept decisions ... if they understand why.”
“My goal is for our citizens to be proud of Newton.”

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