When Brenda Frazier turns off the light and shuts her office door tonight, she will be closing the door on 37 years as a public servant for Hernando County.
Frazier, who started out as a Manpower temporary employee during clerical work all those years ago, spent the last 15 years as the county’s public relations mouthpiece.
It was Frazier who made sure all the press releases of storms, important meetings, employee hirings and firings got out to the media. It was Frazier who hosted well over 400 public service shows on the government broadcasting channel.
And again, it was Frazier who was often the go-between between department heads, county administrators and country commissioners when trying to make sure the facts got out to media so that residents were kept up-to-date.
Frazier announced months ago that today was her last day.
But it wasn’t until county commissioners read a proclamation during Tuesday’s county commission meeting that it all begun to sink in for her.
“Now, it’s real,” she told the board, as her friends, coworkers and family watched in the commission chambers.
Frazier, 58, said she will miss her job because it is still so much fun. And that, she said, is one of the reasons she is leaving at this time.
“My dad always told me and my sister to quit while you’re having fun,” she said. “I’m going to step aside and let someone else have the fun.”
A vital link
Frazier has been the anchor during the decades while the county navigated through a sea of revolving county administrators: 15 of them, to be exact.
She’s seen dozens of county commissioners take up seats in the chamber and watched as many of her coworkers either lost their jobs to attrition or lay-offs.
Frazier said she could not have done her job without the help of so many dedicated government employees.
“They go the extra mile without being asked, and some of them have been here for almost as many years as I have,” she said. “County employees have been through a rough few years with downsizing, and I think they deserve more credit than they receive.
“None of the services we enjoy – like turning on the faucet and having clean water, for instance – would be possible without them.”
Frazier said her most-harrowing time was in 2004 when Hernando County was threatened by a trio of hurricanes named Charley, Frances and Ivan, all of which formed within weeks of each other.
Frazier worked feverishly making sure the latest emergency management updates were sent to the media. It meant long hours, with one eye glued to weather forecasts and the other on her computer typing out the news releases as the latest tracks were submitted to her office.
“It was my most challenging time,” Frazier said. “It was 24/7.”
Probably the most awkward moment came in 2008 when she gathered with scores of community members and residents for the unveiling of a new road sign honoring Edward R. Noll.
Twenty minutes before the unveiling, Frazier peeked under the sign cover and noticed the last name was spelled wrong: Knoll.
She quickly alerted department of Public Works employees, who were able to carefully mask out the K, and all went well.
Frazier said it’s all part of the territory of community relations coordinator and through all the serious news and the not-so-serious, there was always the one overlying goal: the public must stay informed.
“I think it’s become very important to the community to stay in touch with government,” Frazier said. “We are a vital link.”
‘She was a natural’
Frazier came to Florida from Montpelier, Ind., in 1975, and one year later she and her husband, Mark, moved from Pasco County to Brooksville. Her husband got a teaching job at Brooksville Junior High School, later renamed Dolores Parrott Middle School.
Frazier went to a temporary employment agency, which sent her to the clerk’s office, where she did various secretarial duties.
That went so well she was offered a permanent job as deputy clerk and was soon moved into the position of assistant to the first county administrator, Henry Ledbetter.
Until that time, the title of county administrator was referred to as administrative officer.
She remained administrative assistant for 18 years before taking her current role.
Her job includes such tasks as acting as county spokesperson during times of emergency, overseeing the operation of Hernando County Government Broadcasting – seen on Bright House channel 622 – and coordinating the county’s volunteer program and public information programs.
She is the host of Focus on Hernando, a talk show about county government and events taking place in the community.
In the last 15 years, she’s seen technology transform her job. No more word processors, she jokes.
Today, the news can get out faster to the community, she said.
Frazier adapted well to television broadcasts and became comfortable interviewing movers and shakers as well as volunteers and citizens of all stripes.
It was during this time that Frazier said she made what she believes was her best hire in Rick Foti, now the video production manager.
Frazier said she is awed by Foti’s passion for the job and knowledge of production.
Foti returns the compliment.
“She was a natural,” Foti said of Frazier’s work behind the camera and her interviewing skills.
Foti and video assistant Richard Johnson complete the county’s government broadcast team.
“She let me do what I thought was right for the (government broadcasting) channel and gave me free rein,” Foti said. “I think we succeeded.”
County Commissioner Diane Rowden read the proclamation at Tuesday’s meeting and ticked off dozens of high points and accomplishments during Frazier’s long career.
Rowden said she presented the resolution reluctantly and called her departure “a sad day” for Hernando County.
Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the lengthy resolution wasn’t big enough to cover all the accomplishments in Frazier’s tenure and agreed with his colleagues that she would be missed.
The entire chambers broke into applause when Frazier gave her farewell speech to the board.
Frazier said she is leaving the community relations coordinator position in good hands with the recent hire of Virginia Singer, who has been the senior communications coordinator at Southwest Florida Water Management District for the past 13 years.
“Virginia will do well,” she said. “She’s a fresh face and she has lots of energy.”
Frazier plans to stay active in the community. Her husband is retiring after 38 years as a teacher. The couple will spend more time with their three children, their 2-and-a-half-year-old grandson and a granddaughter set to make her debut around Thanksgiving.
And people will probably see her at the occasional community event or even in the commission chambers.
And, of course, Frazier said she will be at the upcoming 100-year-old birthday of the Hernando Courthouse.
A centennial celebration will take place Oct. 11-12, to be held in conjunction with the City of Brooksville’s Founder’s Week.
“I am looking forward to that,” she said. “I will definitely be there.”