PITTSBURG, Kan. — On any given day Sarah Runyon of the City of Pittsburg wears many different hats. Graphic designer, writer, press liaison and public relations officer are just some of the many titles she juggles day to day.
Since 2017, Runyon has been working as public information manager for the City of Pittsburg, where she has worked to “enhance the City’s website, rebrand City departments, establish a City communications strategy, foster positive relationships with the news media, organize the annual State of the City Address, and help realize the Forward Together initiative.” However, with all that happened last year, 2020 was the year when Runyon has been more valuable than ever.
In a year with a pandemic that brought economic uncertainty, constantly canceled events and ever-changing rules, Runyon was been the go-between for the public and city officials during the tumultuous year. Her dedication and work, unsurprisingly, earned her a spot as a 2021 Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Woman of Distinction.
“I’m incredibly honored. I feel like the women I am being recognized alongside probably deserve it a lot more than me, but I am really thankful that my friends and colleagues decided to nominate me,” Runyon says. “I just think there are so many women in our community that deserve to be recognized for the incredible work that they do, and I think that we need to do more to lift them up and celebrate women in general.”
Despite all the craziness 2020 caused, Runyon says she will look back at this year with pride.
“Working in the public sector, you kind of just always have to be ready for anything and this year was an extreme example of that,” she said. “It’s been stressful but I think it's also been really encouraging to see how our community has responded, and so in a lot of ways I think I’m going to look back on this year and go ‘wow did that really happen?’ and ‘wow what a crazy stressful year’ but also say ‘look at what we accomplished together.’”
Runyon looks back fondly over the past three years she's been at the city, one of her favorite memories being from about a year and half ago in the aftermath of a tornado that hit the southside of town.
“It was my job to help communicate and serve as acting public information officer and it was the first time I had really taken on that kind of role,” she says, “and I just remember everyone coming together at the fire station, all of these agencies coming together and everyone just working furiously, running around and it just seemed liked chaos but it was organized chaos, but everyone was just focused on making sure everyone was safe and everyone was okay.”
Runyon hasn’t always been a resident of Pittsburg. Originally from Overbrook, Kansas, near the Topeka area, Runyon got her degree in graphic design from Pittsburg State University, fell in love with the southeast Kansas area and decided to stay after she graduated in 2011.
“I wasn’t born here, but I chose to put down roots here,” Runyon says.
Since then, she has worked in various communications and graphic design roles for a variety of companies including Freeman Health Center, Mosaic in Southeast Kansas and the Colonial Fox Theater Foundation, where she is also a board trustee.
“I always knew that whatever I did would have some kind of art or design element,” she says. “My first job out of college was with the Colonial Fox Theater Foundation. There I was the graphic designer and the public relations officer and I kind of fell in love with both. I loved the community aspect of that job and I love being able to tell stories. I found it really rewarding.”
As one of the first people in her family to go to college, Runyon says the women in her family served as huge inspiration, particularly her grandmother.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without the strong women who inspired me,” she says. “My grandma was a single mom with four kids. She started her career later in life but she was still successful. She was successful and independent.”
Runyon says she wouldn’t be here today without her grandmother, who passed away in 2012, and she owes her so much.
“She was really the one who inspired me to go to college. She always told me that she knew I was capable of it and she really pushed me to get my education and I owe a lot to her for that.”
As the new year begins, Runyon is excited for the future. She loves music and looks forward to continuing to sing and serve her church as the music leader as well as spending time with her husband. However, in bigger news, Runyon and her husband are expecting their first child, a baby girl, due in May.
“I’m just really excited to be raising my daughter in Pittsburg,” she says, “and I hope she loves her hometown as much as I do.”