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SSU spokesman stepping down to lead new communications team for Sonoma County

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Paul Gullixson jokes that he’s stepping down as Sonoma State University’s vice president of communications because there’s so little going on at the college in Rohnert Park.

In fact, Gullixson has worked a busy 26 months as a vice president and chief spokesman for SSU, which wrestles at present with impacts of the pandemic. He’s moving on to what could be an even more demanding job.

Gullixson will start to work in June for Sonoma County, heading up its effort to centralize and focus communications among various departments and entities that have long separately put out information to the public.

As a senior manager for the county, Gullixson, 60, will head up a new communications team. Its charge, as described in the job recruitment pamphlet, is to reach out strategically to Sonoma County residents and inform them of county programs and initiatives — “in a coordinated, consistent, and unified voice, across multiple platforms.”

Gullixson, a former longtime Press Democrat editorial director, overseeing the opinion pages, said that among his objectives will be “to do more to connect with our Spanish-speaking residents.”

He’s preparing also, he said, to help the county’s communications operation to function less on a “crisis-to-crisis” basis.

“I will be trying to get us to think more long term,” he said.

Gullixson, who lives in Santa Rosa, had worked for decades as a journalist when, in April 2018, he joined the administration of SSU President Judy Sakaki as vice president for strategic communications.

Gullixson spoke for the university in upbeat and also difficult times. He was quoted in news stories about violent crimes committed at SSU, the suspension of a fraternity for prohibited hazing, the college’s quest for affordable housing for staff members, the opening of dorm rooms as temporary shelter for homeless people and the setting aside of space for possible treatment of people sickened by COVID-19.

Sonoma County Administrator Sheryl Bratton said in a written statement, “We’re fortunate to appoint someone with Paul’s professional expertise, background in the community and team-building skills to assume the role as head of the county’s centralized communications department.”

Gullixson will earn a starting salary of $157,536.

He said his new team will handle communications for most county departments but that a few, among them the Sheriff’s Office and the water agency, will continue to operate their own communications staffs.

His last day with the college is June 12 and his first with the county is June 29.

Gullixson said he looks forward to helping the county tell its stories. He added, “There are a lot of good stories to tell.”

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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