Vienna’s new public-information officer won’t need to scramble to get to know the community.
“I live just outside of the town, so I feel like I live here,” said Karen Acar Thayer, who assumed her new duties June 28. “To be able to work in the community in which I live and serve the people I support with my tax dollars in the form of shopping – what could be better?”
Thayer succeeds Lynne Coan, who departed in April to take a similar post in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Twenty-six people applied for the post during a nationwide search. Thayer, whose annual salary will be $130,000, stood out because of her exceptional background in communications, said Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton.
“Her main priorities will be advancing the town’s message in a way that is easily understood by the residents of Vienna,” Payton said. “She will work closely with Town Council and the town’s departments to make sure that the public is clear about all of the wonderful things the town is doing.”
Thayer said she hopes to do more public outreach, possibly via enhanced offerings from the town’s cable-television channel.
“It’s really a friendly, welcoming, warm town and the people are engaged in the community,” Thayer said.
Coan’s title in Vienna was communications and marketing manager, but the town went back to the PIO designation with Thayer because that is the standard term in the communications field and in regional jurisdictions, Payton said.
Thayer was born in Pittsburgh and her family moved to the McLean/Falls Church area when she was 5. She attended Kent Gardens Elementary and Longfellow Middle schools before graduating from McLean High School.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Tennessee, Thayer earned a public-relations certificate from the University of Virginia’s Northern Virginia Center and since 2010 has held national accreditation in public relations.
She spent the early part of her career in television news, working as an anchor/producer/reporter for CBS station WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga., and as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WLEX-TV in Lexington, Ky.
After serving as a public-affairs officer/staff assistant for the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training, she was an assistant public-information officer for the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission and communications director for Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Ky.
Thayer then returned to Northern Virginia, where from 2004 to 2010 she was communications director for the Falls Church City Public Schools.
From 2010 until she took the post in Vienna, Thayer was promotional-services manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority.
During her tenure there, Thayer streamlined production of the agency’s Parktakes magazine, helped it obtain more than 200,000 subscribers and cross-trained staff to build “bench strength,” said spokesman Judy Pedersen.
Thayer also led the Colvin Run Mill Campaign, which won a $75,000 preservation grant; engaged park users with the annual Discovery Trail Map Campaign; and produced Parktakes on time, despite COVID-related challenges, she said.
Park Authority officials wish Thayer success in this her role, Pedersen said.
“Vienna’s gain is without a doubt FCPA’s loss,” she said. “Karen is a pro who knows how to both find and communicate the story.”