On the Job: Director of Public Affairs

When you’re as energetic and dynamic as Gloria Neal, there’s nothing you can’t handle.

Authored by Kerrie Lee Brown

Photo by Esther Lee Leach

Sometimes life comes full circle—and Gloria Neal knows this all too well. South Carolina born, Neal was raised in a military family. Her father was in the Army for 31 years and retired a Command Sergeant Major. As a result, every three years “Glo” (affectionately called by friends) moved to various places including to Germany. Despite living all over the world, and then back stateside to Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, Neal considers Denver home since she has lived in Colorado for the better part of 30 years. In many ways, she says Colorado reminds her of Germany, which is probably why she feels more at home in the Mile High City than anywhere else she’s lived as an adult. After a successful career in media, Neal happily joined the City & County of Denver two years ago as Director of Public Affairs for the Office of Mayor Hancock, City & County of Denver.

What are your daily duties?
“Some of my day-to-day duties include fielding and vetting constituent calls that come into the Mayor’s office and directing those calls to the appropriate staff within the city’s vast directorate. Many of those calls deal with very serious issues—racism, pro-choice/pro-life, allegations of police misconduct, allegations of discrimination in hiring, etc. Regardless of the allegation, it’s my job to ensure those concerns get addressed in a timely fashion by vetting the nature of the complaint on behalf of the Mayor. I also head-off any challenges or misunderstandings I see coming down the pipeline by stepping in and getting both sides to sit down and discuss the real issues at hand.”

What other responsibilities do you have?
“Another role I play is establishing or reestablishing relationships on the Mayor’s behalf with numerous public and private sector organizations within the city and state, as well as offering remarks at a variety of events and galas—from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Denver’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Metro State University; those are just a few of the organizations I interact with on a daily basis. Lastly, it’s important to the Mayor that he knows whatever he tasks me to do, regardless of the time of day, I will take action to get the ball rolling. It is not uncommon for me to send an email at one o’clock in the morning or make a constituent house visit on a Sunday afternoon.”

How does your experience as a radio and television host come into play?
“It’s all about relationships and how you make people feel. Even if they don’t agree with the final decision, I always have constituents call me and thank me for listening to their concerns. It is that vein that I am always wearing my public affairs hat. It was the same as a radio or talk show host or even a journalist. Now, instead of me talking into a microphone, I’m talking into a phone or I’m meeting one-on-one. Sometimes, depending on the issue, my interactions with the public will showcase more of my hosting skills rather than my journalism skills. Being a member of the Mayor’s front office team, I am always looking for ways to shine a light on his platforms and initiatives. I not only do that when I speak on behalf of Mayor Hancock, but also when I emcee events. Even though I have separate passions and endeavors, as the Director of Public Affairs, the goal is to always represent the Mayor and his platform in the most positive and passionate light.”

Do you aspire to go into politics?
“I have been asked this question so many times. My first inclination is “no”, however, that doesn’t mean that I am not interested in politics. Quite the contrary. I say that because I believe politics touches everything we touch and everything we love. I have said many times that everything in life is politics—from the food we eat to the cars we drive to the person we love. The elements that touch all our lives originate somewhere in the political spectrum.”

What are some passion projects of your own?
“Some initiatives I’m involved with are Warren Village, Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the American Red Cross Denver/ Wyoming Chapter. Being a board member on the Warren Village Board is important to me because of the mission statement. It’s designed to help those in need reach self-sufficiency at a critical time in their lives. That resonates with me because I can remember a time when I needed help and even though it was tough to ask for help, someone did help me. For many women, men, and children in Denver, Warren Village is that help. Most of those living at Warren Village are single mothers who are leaving stressful and abusive situations. They need someplace safe to live and regroup; and a place to rebuild their self-esteem.

For those same reasons I am involved with the women’s chamber. They serve a vital role in Colorado’s economic picture and help women to better understand their potential. I also love that the American Red Cross not only responds to every house fire in the state and helps to find housing for those impacted, the organization also teams up with the City & County of Denver to ensure the elderly and lower income neighborhoods have access to free smoke detector checks and installations. It’s all about community for me.”

What is the most important thing about your position right now?
“I believe the most important thing about what I’m doing right now with the Mayor is making sure that the community knows that the city is working hard every day to keep them safe and informed especially in this time of what I call the “Corona Chronicles.” So, as I continue to work from home, I still make sure I return calls and emails to constituents who have concerns or questions, as well as attend virtual meetings, conference calls, and check on the mental state of constituents. When I’m not doing that, I’m calling organizations to ensure they are getting what they need. Right now with so much uncertainty, reassuring residents has become a full-time job. I also think it’s important to volunteer your time—if you can—to help our doctors, nurses, law enforcement, and first responders.”