Fort Smith communications manager resigns, notes difficult environment

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 4,269 views 

Fort Smith Communications Manager Karen Santos has resigned. In a resignation letter Tuesday (March 10), Santos thanked City Administrator Carl Geffken for the opportunity to serve the city and gave two weeks notice with her resignation effective March 20. Geffken informed Santos at that time that Tuesday would be her last day.

“I’ve served as best I could in an environment averse to openness and clear, honest communication. And I hope folks can understand that despite my shortcomings, I did the best in the circumstances,” Santos said.

He sent out an email later that day telling media outlets that the communications manager had resigned.

“We are sorry to see her leave and wish her all the best,” Geffken said.

Santos said it has been an honor to work for the city, but it is time to move on.

“Two years ago, I wondered why the hand of God was steering me  here, despite many misgivings. During the (record flooding of the Arkansas River in Fort Smith in May 2019), why I was here became clear to me,” Santos said.

She noted that dedicating the City of Fort Smith Facebook page to authoritative information for residents and news media helped keep the public informed with factual timely information that people needed quickly.

“I know pushing the City of Fort Smith staff to combat misinformation and disinformation helped at a stressful and difficult time,” Santos said.

A video Santos shot on her phone of Fort Smith Mayor George McGill reassuring residents before the flood crest garnered more than 40,000 views and was used by media worldwide, she said. It even got the mayor invited to speak in Germany, she added.

Santos said she also helped the state emergency management public information officer and county emergency management team during the flooding. Santos also said her “diligent fulfillment of City of Fort Smith Freedom of Information Act responsibilities” contributed toward the common good of the city.

Geffken did not say if the city would seek a replacement.