As the Bexley City Schools' new public-information officer, James Harless is helping the district to find new ways to keep the community informed.
Both Harless and new Superintendent Kimberly Miller officially joined the district Aug. 1. One of the first charges Harless said he received from Miller is to enhance the district's online presence, including increasing social media activity and making the bexleyschools.org website more searchable and user-friendly.
"We have a business plan to push out information and redefine our presence with social media and our website," Harless said.
Harless and his family relocated to Bexley from Dayton. He and his wife, Danielle, have three daughters, including a newborn.
A Greenville native, Harless spent 11 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he worked as public affairs specialist. He has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Dayton and a master's degree in public affairs from Park University.
Becoming Bexley's first full-time public-information officer allows Harless to draw on both his education and communications backgrounds, he said.
"The two kind of naturally blended together," he said.
Harless said Bexley schools' academic reputation and the community's quality of life appealed to him.
The schools' "record is impeccable. It's one of the best in the nation," he said. "You can walk around downtown, and it's safe. Your kids can play outside, and you don't have to worry. And the best part is, you're 15 minutes from downtown Columbus and Ohio State. It's like the storybook town that's kind of fading away."
Harless was hired on a starting annual salary of $70,000, district Treasurer Kyle Smith said. What made Harless stand out from the 56 applicants and six other candidates who interviewed for the position was his experience and his eye for branding and details, said Miller, who over-saw the interview process.
"James brings a wealth of experience from the public information sector from his time in the Coast Guard," she said. "Having that kind of experience with not only local media, but national media as well, was very attractive. We wanted someone to have someone who had that kind of experience and the ability to proactively communicate information and not just respond."
Harless is not a total newcomer to Bexley. He said he was familiar with Bexley through his previous position as the communication coordinator at Lehman Catholic High School, where he had dealings with St. Charles Preparatory School.
"I'm learning more about Bexley every day," he said.