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Mayor Brown adds third member, at $83,000 a year, to his PR staff

Mayor Byron W. Brown has added another publicist to his staff: Sharon Linstedt, who left her reporting job at The Buffalo News in 2010 to become a public relations strategist.

City Hall will pay her more than $83,000 a year, lifting the total payroll for Brown’s publicity office to more than $275,000 annually.

After 23 years at The News, Linstedt worked as a consultant and media strategist with Travers Collins until April, 10 months after Travers Collins was bought by the Martin Group. She then started taking on her own clients until securing her new government post.

On a job-networking website, Linstedt described herself as “extremely proactive in getting my clients’ stories told, while being equally vigilant in mitigating damage in crisis situations.”

Linstedt began work Tuesday as the mayor’s “deputy communications and community relations coordinator.” Also working in the office are Lorey Schultz, a former television reporter paid more than $90,000 as communications and community relations coordinator, and Michael DeGeorge, paid nearly $102,000 as Brown’s director of communications and intergovernmental relations, according to payroll records.

At three full-time employees, the mayor’s public relations team is at a modern high. Buffalo city government in recent years tended to go with two employees: One for the mayor and one for the police department. DeGeorge, who began as the police spokesman in 2007, eventually took on both roles, and was given an assistant, in Schultz, in 2011.

For comparison, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has a press secretary with an assistant, and an employee to perform public information needs for the county Health Department. The independently elected sheriff has his own spokesman.

In Rochester, Mayor Lovely A. Warren has a much larger public relations staff. There are 17 full-time employees and six part-time employees in the Bureau of Communications and Special Events. But they take on myriad roles, including organizing governmental functions, a spokeswoman there said.

Linstedt’s job, which is exempt from civil service rules, was never advertised publicly.

“Sharon was recruited for the position,” DeGeorge said.

DeGeorge didn’t answer a question about why the government needed to add another employee to the office. But he did explain what Linstedt will do: She will “play a key role in coordinating communications and community relations” and “do outreach and create awareness for a number of city departments and agencies.”