UW Grad Leads Gov. Schwarzenegger's Communications Efforts
Lara Azar, a University of Wyoming graduate from Casper, says her job as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special assistant for executive communications is everything she has ever wished for.
She gets to meet some of the world's most influential people, from presidents to celebrities, and she also does something she has loved since working at her high school newspaper -- sometimes she writes all day.
"I just can't believe they pay me to do it," she says.
She left Casper at the age of 10 to move to Cairo, Egypt, with her parents. After graduating from high school there, Azar decided it was time to go back to her home state and headed to Laramie for college. She graduated from UW with a degree in journalism in 2000, then moved to Escondio, Calif., a week later to take a job as a reporter for The Californian. She held two more newspaper jobs in California, before moving back to Wyoming to work for Gov. Dave Freudenthal.
She enjoyed working for Freudenthal, because she worked on a vast range of topics and every day brought a new challenge. She says she never knew if she'd be writing news releases or answering questions on health insurance, water quality, higher education or other issues
"Four years of that job and I was never bored once!" she says. "Getting to play one small role in that administration was a big part of the appeal."
After Gov. Freudenthal's first term ended, Azar and her husband, UW graduate Eric Rohr, decided to move back to California. Azar found a position that suited her skills well and was able to get promoted quickly. After working as a deputy director of constituent affairs in Gov. Schwarzenegger's office, she became his special assistant for executive communications.
Azar attends most governor's meetings, receives and answers his numerous letters and e-mails, and works in a myriad of areas just to ensure that communication between Gov. Schwarzenegger's office and the rest of the world goes as smoothly as possible.
"Governor Schwarzenegger is a big believer in open communication between his office and those outside it, especially his constituents. My job is to make sure that belief is carried out via correspondence with people he meets, with other elected officials, and with community and business leaders," Azar says.
"Written correspondence is a hugely important part of being governor, and Lara Azar likewise is a hugely important part of my staying in touch with the many individuals and organizations I deal with every day," Schwarzenegger says. "She writes with style, precision and a flawless use of language, and her enthusiasm and skill combine to make her one of the gems of my administration."
Although Azar's work constantly keeps her in the spotlight, she says that working in Gov. Schwarzenegger's office is not much different from working for Gov. Freudenthal.
"Every state -- and every governor -- faces many of the same challenges and opportunities," she says, "The difference between Wyoming and California in that regard is mostly one of scale, as you might imagine when you go from the least populated state to the most populated."
Since she has to write a lot more than she's had to, Azar considers good writing one of the most valuable skills students should learn in college.
"The communications professors and instructors at UW taught me a tremendous amount about the importance of writing well," says Azar, who worked at UW's Branding Iron student newspaper. I would suggest students not underestimate the value of that," she says. "In the communications field, writing well is obviously inherently critical, but I'd argue that it's nearly as important in every field."
Whenever Azar is not spending time with her family, she likes to do things that make her life seem more ordinary -- she cooks, travels and reads whenever and whatever she can.
Lara Azar and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger review some of the correspondence that Azar will send to constituents.
Posted on Thursday, March 05, 2009