Helping the community stay connected, Tiffany Martinez Vrska, the City of Lawton’s first Community Relations Director, relays information between city officials and citizens while overseeing public affairs for many of the City’s major departments.
“I love what I do,” she said. “It is important for us to be open and transparent; communicating allows us to tell our story and that makes a big difference.”
Earning her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Cameron University in 2013, she attributes much of her career’s success to her educators there. Starting as a staff writer for the Cameron Collegian, she soon became the paper’s managing editor. Vrska was first runner- up for Newspaper Journalist of the Year and second place in the Best Multimedia Story from the Oklahoma Collegiate Media Association.
She also became the producer for the university’s weekly news program, CUTV News. “The educators at Cameron saw something in me that I wasn’t able to see myself. They inspired me and encouraged me to write, join the newspaper staff and take on some extracurriculars and extra responsibilities that helped me along the way.”
After graduating, she became the city and crime beat reporter for The Express-Star in Chickasha, and then a lifestyles reporter for The Lawton Constitution, earning awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press in Oklahoma.
With a passion for helping kids, she managed video production projects for Lawton Public Schools, directing and editing video footage, writing press releases and managing several social media platforms.
Through communication, planning and cultivating relationships, Vrska believes that community leaders are determined to increase Lawton and Southwest Oklahoma’s potential. “Making sure we have open lines of communication, strategic planning and by forging relationships on behalf of the city, the better our community will become and the better all of Southwest Oklahoma will become,” she said.
Outside city hall, Vrska gives back to the community by coordinating, promoting and scheduling events. She is involved with several civic groups including Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority, Lawton Proud, Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma, AIM for Lawton Public Schools, the United Way of Southwest Oklahoma and renders her support to the Lawton-Fort Sill Freedom Festival.
Being involved with the Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority and Lawton Proud demonstrates her love for the “the hub of Southwest Oklahoma.” She supports Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority, an initiative that provides funding and direction for the city’s aesthetics, which in turn leads to greater economic development. She is also a member of the Lawton Proud committee, an image campaign team that highlights various facets of the Lawton Fort Sill community. “There are so many things in Lawton to be proud of and we want people to be proud of the community.”
Using her media knowledge, Vrska contributes to the future of Lawton’s youth. As an advocate for the Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma Coalition – a program that promotes physical activity, nutrition guidelines and healthier lifestyles for the community – she is part of the planning team for the biannual Open Streets event that is coordinated alongside the City of Lawton and shares public relations responsibilities. She also recruits mentors and assists
with events associated with the AIM for Lawton Public Schools program, which helps students decide on a career path and understand what steps are needed to be successful. The youth-based initiative provides apprenticeship, internship, and mentorship to Lawton students. About 20 high school sophomores get together for a multi-day leadership retreat where they do physical training at Fort Sill, meet the mayor, pair up with mentors and shadow professionals to receive on- the-job training, said Vrska.
Leading the city’s annual fundraising campaign for United Way of Southwest Oklahoma, she, along with 860 city employees, help raise funds through annual gifting and by hosting events like the Chili and Dessert Cook-off. United Way helps community members overcome challenges with education, income stability, health, and basic needs through its 18 partnering agencies and initiatives. “They are so crucial in helping our community run more smoothly because so many people rely on their services.”
Vrska also helps promote Lawton-Fort Sill’s annual Freedom Festival. Held at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreational Area, along with live music and an array of vendors, the Independence Day celebration boasts one of the largest fireworks display in Oklahoma.
“Communication, networking and building relationships with community partners makes the difference between success and failure,” she said. “I’ve been lucky to build on those relationships year after year and have a hand in different events and initiatives. That allows me to work more efficiently to better the lives of citizens in our community.”
Looking ahead, Vrska stated, “We want Lawton and Southwest Oklahoma to be a place where families can live, grow and thrive.”