City manager blogs to communicate with city

Carolyn Fertig

Ruller uses Kent360 to create transparency

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller wanted a way to communicate directly to the citizens of Kent. So, in April 2006, Ruller created Kent360 – a blog.

Ruller uses the blog to explain information and to post big and small news relevant to Kent’s diverse population. He said he wants to create a transparent government.

“It has become an essential part of the job from my perspective, as it gives me a chance to share information and insights that aren’t always evident from media coverage,” he said. “Plus, I believe it helps create an atmosphere of trust, as residents can see that we’re trying to be as transparent as possible, and trust is the foundation of local government.”

Ruller’s blog is not political but strictly information about the government and what’s going on in Kent, Ward 5 Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said.

“Dave tries very hard to stay out of politics,” she said. “I know that if I put up a blog, I am probably going to express more of a political viewpoint ’cause that’s what I do.

“There is no complete neutrality, but his optimism about where the city is going, where it could go, creates a foundation for us (City Council) with the strategic planning that we have done, politically as a council.”

Shaffer said people have to remember the blog is still put out by the city manager. He is passionate about the city and the new improvements that are happening. He is not a journalist but a public relations person for Kent, she said.

“This is PR,” Shaffer said. “Dave is not going to be necessarily open and critical about the people that he supervises because that would be wrong. So you have to read this understanding that it is not necessarily balanced.”

Ruller defines having a successful blog as community involvement.

“Success to me is about readership, sharing information, learning, engaging the community, expanding our capacity to help make progress happen, and to those ends, I think the blog has made a real difference,” Ruller said. “It’s not the answer to all our problems, but it is another tool available for us to use, and for a certain segment of the population, it is an important part of their day as citizens.”

Blogging is only one form of communication Ruller has dabbled with. In 2008, he started a YouTube channel: KentOhio360.

To date, 15 videos have been posted, including information about the Crain Avenue Bridge project, living in Kent and Kent State University.

Ruller said the videos and Kent360 have helped improve economic development.

“We’ve probably had 10 economic development leads that found us through the blog, and those folks have said that what they read caused them to take a closer look at Kent when they probably would not have otherwise,”ÿhe said.

Though economic development and communication are important, it’s still about the people, Shaffer said.

“This blog creates the cool factor for the city that we all know a university town should have,” she said. “People like college towns, and this is part of the reason. I hope that this makes people feel like they belong.”

Contact public affairs reporter Carolyn Fertig at [email protected]