Donn Patchen doesn’t remember how he ended up in the production room at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.
But seeing the flashing buttons, flickering television screens and the technicians operating it all was the catalyst for his career in television production and more recently has parlayed him into the position as Sarasota County’s new director of communications.
The Penn State graduate brings with him about 20 years’ of experience in public access broadcasting. Patchen will eventually have a completely upgraded audio/visual system to work with in the County Commission chambers.
It’s been more than a year since the department has had a permanent director, after now Education Foundation Director Susan Scott resigned last June. But Patchen is thinking in the longterm. He and his wife, Sherri, have a contract to buy a home in Palm-Aire Country Club.
“It’s not just a career change — it’s a life change,” Patchen said.
The role of director of communications entails summarizing county events and operations, promoting county-sponsored events and working with staff or members of the press to bring that information to the public. The team under Patchen deals with information ranging from the details of the new Gulf Gate Library to what the county does to prepare for a hurricane. Patchen said he’s still learning about the department’s operations and getting to know staff. He doesn’t know what changes he plans to implement in either situation.
Five years ago, Patchen oversaw communications for the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, while he was also working for Miami-Dade County, for which he was most recently served as division manager for community information and outreach. The Super Bowl reached more than 90 million viewers that year.
“I think this will be a premier county,” Patchen said. “These opportunities don’t come around very often.”