Saying Melinda Kletzok has a lot of irons in the fire is a bit of an understatement.
At this point the fire is in danger of being snuffed out by all of Kletzok's activities, which seem to multiply on an almost daily basis.
"I never turn down an interesting experience," says Kletzok, best known as the public information officer for Lane County.
That's not all she does.
One day a week, Kletzok serves as the public information officer for Benton County. Once or twice a year, she travels to Maryland to teach an advanced public information course for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and she helped found a local network that allows area public information officers to share their resources in case of an emergency.
When she's not working, Kletzok can probably be found at the gym, the beach or trailing behind a speed boat at one of the local reservoirs. She studies four different forms of martial arts, ocean surfs and "wakesurfs" with her husband, Scott, and shoots guns with a girlfriend.
And if she's not working out, she's probably working on something. She's a member of Rotary International, she sits on her church council board and she's teaching herself Mandarin Chinese. She also speaks a bit of French and Spanish.
"There are so many interesting thing to do in life," Kletzok says. "There's an endless supply of new experiences waiting out there."
How does one woman find the time and the will to embrace so many new experiences, not to mention hold down a job that requires her to coordinate with 72 different departments, write hundreds of press releases, create public service announcements, do the occasional TV interview and answer questions from pesky newspaper reporters?
That is the great mystery.
"I would give anything if I had her energy," says Ethel Mashaw, receptionist at the county building where Kletzok works. "She never stops. Her job is so important to her ... she will drop her lunch hour and she will give up her workout. ... She's a very kind-hearted, loving and giving person. She's just one of the nicest people I've ever met."
So, apparently Kletzok, 44, isn't just a busy body, she's also pleasant to be around.
"No matter what her workload is, she always takes time to stop and chat with people," says Zoe Gilstrap, the county's management services supervisor. "She's just a real genuine, sweet, caring person."
And she's always been like this?
"Yes, she's always been that way," her friend Debi Hill says. "She's always game to try something new, which is fun. And you wouldn't even know it if she's having a bad day."
Equestrian and gymnast
As a child, Kletzok skied and raced sled dogs with her family. She grew up in Medford and moved to Eugene, where she attended Cal Young Middle School. She was a competitive equestrian for 15 years, did gymnastics, swimming and track. While at Sheldon High School, she was a district high jump champion. She went on to study public relations at the University of Oregon's Clark Honors College.
After meeting her husband, Kletzok got into motorcycle racing. She replaced that sport with jet skiing, which became much more than a hobby for her when she started competing on the pro level in the early 1990s. At one point, she was ranked fifth in the world in the sport. She trained for jet skiing with track coach Dick Brown, Mary Slaney's former trainer; wrote a regular column in a jet skiing magazine; and competed at weekend events throughout the summer, all the while continuing to work as public relations director for Goodwill Industries.
Eventually, the intense training routine, combined with the long hours on the road, took its toll on Kletzok, and she retired from jet skiing.
"I was burned out physically," she says. "I value my husband, and I wanted to spend more time with him."
Traveling around the country while on the jet ski circuit convinced Kletzok that Lane County was the place for her. She enjoys working downtown, but prefers to live in the country, which is why she and her husband chose to settle in the Veneta area.
"I've flown around the U.S. and it just struck me, one time, how good we have it," Kletzok says. "It's absolutely beautiful, the climate is great, the recreation and outdoor opportunities are great. It's an interesting, diverse mix of people. It's just a fun place to live."
Kletzok's resume includes time spent as a public relations assistant at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and as an account manager at the Cawood public relations and marketing firm in Eugene. She even interned as a TV news reporter for KVAL-TV in Eugene, and for a station in Bend.
Kletzok took a pay cut to come to work for the county in July 2001, but, she says, it was worth it. She was drawn to the challenge of working in a new area of public relations, and she liked the idea of serving a single entity rather than working for clients. She says the people are what make her two jobs enjoyable.
"I find a lot of smart people and very good-hearted people," Kletzok says. "I always tell people I'm blessed to have two good working environments."
Broad job description
Kletzok's job description at Lane County calls for her to work with everyone from county commissioners to the Public Works Department to Health and Human Services. She handles both external and internal communications for the county, helps with lobbying efforts, does marketing and Internet polling. She helps put on news conferences and produces brochures, Web sites, radio spots and videos. If there is breaking news or an emergency situation, she works with the public and the media, and her job puts her on the front lines of everything from looming labor strikes to park closures to public health outbreaks.
"You realize quickly when you get into a job like this where there's only one of you that you can't know everything," Kletzok says. "You have to ask questions and you learn who to ask."
Kletzok says her religion helps her cope with her busy schedule. She regularly takes time out from her day to pray and, she says, her faith provides her with a certain sense of optimism. Her pastor, Laurie Forbes, says she is spiritual without being outwardly so.
"She has a very active prayer life, a very active worship life and she has a great love for people," says Forbes, who is the pastor at the Fernridge Faith Center. "She's also thoughtful. She thinks things through and you don't get a snap decision from her. Because of her job, she's able to look at things from all perspectives."
Shortly after the abduction of Brooke Wilberger in May 2004, Forbes and Kletzok organized a women's self-defense workshop. Kletzok, who began studying martial arts eight years ago following several scary encounters with dangerous men, felt the need to address the sense of vulnerability many women felt at the time of the Wilberger abduction.
"I guess I could relate to feeling more vulnerable," Kletzok said. `(Studying martial arts) doesn't make you invulnerable, but it gives you a better chance, and you don't make a good target anymore.'
In addition to serving on the church board, Kletzok is also a member of the church's "preaching team," which means she can be called on to substitute for Forbes. She recently took a nine-month ministry training course and has given two sermons at her church.
`She has learned not to wear high heels' while giving a sermon,' Forbes says of Kletzok. "You stand in one place for an hour and it can get uncomfortable."
Kletzok leaves the high heels on while target shooting, says Hill, her girlfriend. Kletzok says her insistence on wearing tall shoes at the shooting range is actually more practical than it sounds.
`If you're practicing for self defense,' Kletzok says, it makes sense. "I usually wear high heels, so why not practice in them?"
Hill, who serves as vice president of marketing at Pacific Cascade Credit Union, convinced Kletzok to act in a commercial for the financial institution. In the spot, which airs on local stations, Kletzok walks into the credit union and is greeted by name by the friendly credit union staff.
`She (Hill) is my friend and I was happy to help out,' Kletzok says. "I know how hard it is to get people to do ads without paying them."
But Kletzok adamantly insists she has no intention of launching an acting career anytime soon.
Job title: Public information officer, Lane County; public information officer, Benton County
Remember when: While interning at a TV news station, Kletzok was assigned to cover a forest fire on a day she happened to be wearing white heels and a white linen suit. "Now, I always keep an extra change of clothes with me," Kletzok says.
Good fortune: "I feel very fortunate to be where I'm at and to have had the opportunities that I've had," Kletzok says. "I don't take it for granted."
Melinda Kletzok, Lane County public information officer, loves to surf, is a fitness buff and is teaching herself Mandarin Chinese. "I never turn down an interesting experience," she says.
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|Title Annotation:||Government; For information officer Melinda Kletzok, there's no such thing as dull|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Sep 5, 2005|
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