The University announced Monday a former spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been named GW’s media relations director, a position that has been vacant for nearly six months.
Candace Smith began serving in her new role as the University’s chief spokeswoman Nov. 11. Smith, who most recently served as a media crisis communications coach for WMATA and communications adviser to Metro’s general manager, said she hopes to provide journalists with the most information possible in the shortest amount of time.
Smith worked for WMATA for five years, and was the scene spokeswoman for the Red Line crash over the summer – the worst crash in Metro’s history.
Smith said she decided to make the transition from Metro to GW because she “was ready for a change.”
“I had been doing it for too long,” Smith said. “I had done other derailments, I had dealt with employee fatalities. Of course this was the worst, and it was definitely the saddest [and the] most challenging.”
Before making the transition to public relations, Smith served as a journalist for 16 years.
“For the job that I’m doing, I have a journalism background in television, radio and print,” Smith said. “I understand what reporters want, what they need, the pressures they are under to meet their deadline. I am looking to facilitate how we can promote the great things the University has to offer.”
While she acknowledged being the spokeswoman for a large institution like GW is no easy task, she said she is looking forward to promoting positive events, rather than always being “in crisis mode.”
“Metro is in the news a lot, and it’s not the best attention,” Smith said. “It had a full-time Washington Post reporter just covering Metro. It’s always crisis mode.”
She added that the nature of the Metro organization was inherently challenging.
“It was extremely challenging to have a ridership of 1.3 million every single day and basically be a multi-jurisdictional agency governed by politicians,” Smith said “So that is challenging and they do it every single day. Metro is not closed down any time.”
Smith said she is looking forward to highlighting GW’s strengths, and said she comes to her position with prior knowledge of the University, as she served as an adjunct professor teaching public information to students studying emergency medicine.
“Working at a university, and particularly GW, it is a great and robust institution and you have all of this creativity, an intellectual stimulating environment. There is a lot going on here and it’s very exciting,” Smith said. “I mean who doesn’t want to work at a place like that?”