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Muhammad leaves East Aurora to join city


Clayton Muhammad

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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:33AM

AURORA — On Monday, East Aurora public relations man Clayton Muhammad was crafting a special press release — the one announcing his departure.

Muhammad, spokesman of East Aurora schools, announced early Tuesday he will join the city to serve in a newly-created position as Director of Communications.

Muhammad submitted his letter of resignation to East Aurora School District Superintendent Jerome Roberts on Monday. He will officially start at the city on Feb. 18.

“I’m definitely excited to join the city in this capacity to serve all of Aurora. When you look at what’s going on in this city, it is undoubtedly exciting,” Muhammad said Tuesday.

Muhammad’s main task will be to head up efforts to rebrand Aurora “locally, regionally and nationally” — a mission close to his heart. A product of the Southwind housing projects and East Aurora schools, 37-year-old Muhammad has raised his own two adopted sons in the city.

“I’m not speaking from theory, I’m speaking from practice,” Muhammad said.

His goal in the role will be to shatter stereotypes that the state’s second-largest city has held onto for decades, he said.

“When you talk about Texas, California, you know the cities. But when we talk about Illinois, we want to make certain it’s not just Chicago, it’s Aurora there,” Muhammad said. We want to become one of those cities — as we have grown to be — on people’s radar.”

Mayor Tom Weisner said Muhammad is a proven leader who cares deeply about the city.

“With crime down to record low levels, Aurora’s story is radically different today than it was a few years ago,” Weisner said. “People are beginning to take a fresh look at our city, and I believe Clayton brings the right combination of experience and enthusiasm to help us position Aurora as a great city in which to live, do business and raise a family.”

As Director of Communications, Muhammad will oversee day-to-day communications including media relations, public affairs, Aurora Community Television, digital and social media. He will also lead the development of a citywide marketing communications plan to support economic development, plus handle the coordination, management and implementation of communication strategies across various city departments, according to the city.

City Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said Muhammad will supervise existing city spokesmen Dan Ferrelli and Kevin Stahr. Muhammad said he will not act as a spokesman for the city in his new role.

The move to the city post will be a slight decrease in pay for Muhammad. As East Aurora spokesman, Muhammad’s salary was $103,000. At the city, Muhammad’s salary will be $98,072, according to Ergo.

Muhammad said he received a number of surprised calls and well wishes on Tuesday.

“Everyone’s very supportive,” he said. “It’s that bittersweet feeling, and I’m feeling it as well. I’ve spent my entire career in public education.”

Muhammad said recent controversies at East Aurora did not play into his decision to leave the district. In the last five years, Muhammad said he’s turned down nine job offers at public school districts or other organizations.

“If you look back at the last 10 years, we’ve gone through some pretty challenging times at the district,” Muhammad said. “If it were the challenges that would have made me jump ship, it would have happened a long time ago.”

During Muhammad’s tenure at the East Aurora School District, he instituted a communications plan that resulted in a dramatic increase of print and television media coverage, substantial growth in the school district’s business partnership program, a revised website, a social media campaign that reaches thousands per day and a regular column in the Beacon-News, city officials said. He also collaborated with the West Aurora School District on many programs intended to mentor and motivate local school kids.

East Aurora Superintendent Jerome Roberts said that Muhammad’s work ethic and commitment speak for themselves.

“We are very proud of Clayton and the work that he has done for East Aurora schools for nearly a decade,” Roberts said. “While his move is a loss for our district, I am personally happy to know that Aurora will gain an advocate for the entire city.”

Muhammad is a graduate of East Aurora High School and went on to attend University of Illinois and Lewis University. He was a teacher at Waldo Middle School in East Aurora for three years before serving as vice president of the Quad County Urban league from 2000-2004.

Muhammad is also founder of Boys II Men, a youth leadership group. The group celebrated its 10th anniversary in December.

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