Mayor Bob Sheehy Thursday was awarded a top public relations prize for the way he represented the Waco area to the world after the April 19 fire at Mount Carmel.
Carol Perry, one of two city employees who nominated Sheehy for the “Silver Bridge Award,” said Sheehy was perfectly suited for the job of expressing the city of Waco’s grief at the death of more than 80 Branch Davidian cult members.
“It was a great benefit for us that he is not only an articulate trial attorney, but a very caring community leader and dedicated family man,” said Perry, the city’s community relations manager and member of the Central Texas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, which presented the prize.
“His personal kindness was a manifestation of the sympathy that our whole community extended to the victims of the tragedy,” Perry said.
The “Silver Bridge Award” is given annually to the chief executive officer in Central Texas “who has successfully applied public relations techniques to achieve corporate or organization goals,” according to a PRSA news release.
Sheehy said he was honored to receive the award.
However, he said it should be shared with the city staffers, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and others who dealt with the crisis.
Perry and city public information coordinator Sandy Test nominated Sheehy for the “Silver Bridge” award.
Past recipients include Tom Clowe of Central Freight Lines, Don Goodwin of Texas State Technical College and Kent Keahey of Providence Health Center.
From Feb. 28 to April 19, city officials kept a low profile as federal authorities tried to negotiate an end to the siege in a rural section of unincorporated McLennan County.
“It was a very conscious matter on our part that it was not part of the city or the city’s business, so we called no news conferences or had any press releases,” Sheehy said.
“All the interviews that were done were done because people called and asked if we would talk,” he said.
After the fire, however, the city’s public relations effort, led by Sheehy, was kicked into high gear.
“On April 19 at about 1:30 p.m. after the fire had died down, (City Manager) Jim Holgersson and Sandy and Carol sat and discussed it, and we felt like that because of the loss of life, it was something we could not ignore,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy was introduced to the nation and the world during an afternoon news conference just hours after the fire.
In the following days, he gave numerous interviews at all hours, Perry said.
“He did it willingly,” she said.
“We marveled at his energy. He never failed every time we asked him to do an interview or return a phone call,” she said.