Vicki Duncan Gardner Takes Over As Director of Communications For City of Westfield
Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer: Amy Payne
A lifelong Hoosier, Vicki Duncan Gardner grew up in Greensburg, Indiana, and graduated from DePauw University. She worked for 11 years as a television journalist in Ohio, Illinois and Kansas.
“People always ask me if I truly liked Kansas, and I did,” Duncan Gardner says. “It was a great job with great people. Everyone was so nice that it reminded me a lot of Indiana, honestly.”
After marrying her husband, Troy, the pair moved to Indianapolis in 1999 where she got a job at Channel 6 for 5.5 years. From there she worked for the lieutenant governor. After awhile, she was ready to try something new, so she went into the private sector and helped run a small digital marketing company that focused on documentary-style videos.
“I learned a ton in that regard in terms of managing finances, managing facility, you name it,” Duncan Gardner says. “But I dove right in and stuck with it for eight years.”
Following that, she worked in the corporate world for two years, accepted some consulting gigs and then the opportunity to become the City of Westfield’s Director of Communications presented itself and she couldn’t pass it up.
“It was so enticing to me because it totally fits in my sweet spot,” says Duncan Gardner, who has been on all sides of the communications game.
“Being a reporter for the longest time has given me a real appreciation for the role I’m in now,” she says. “I get that we have stories to give to the public, but we also have to do it in a way that makes sense for all sides so I really try to take that approach into this job.”
Duncan Gardner, who started in this role at the end of March, hopes to find creative ways to communicate with the public the vision the mayor has for the city as well as the opportunities Westfield has to make a mark for both its residents and its visitors.
“This is an exciting time to be in Westfield,” says Duncan Gardner, noting that currently there is a palpable build-up for the possibilities that are to come in the community. To demonstrate Westfield’s exponential growth, she cites the sheer number of permits the city has had in recent years.
“Every single permit is dollars and investment it the community,” Duncan Gardner says. “Not only is the trend seeing opportunity come to Westfield, but also there is a real seriousness about doing it right and doing it strategically.”
She mentions Grand Junction Park & Plaza in downtown Westfield as well as Grand Park Sports Complex, a 400-acre championship-level facility that includes 31 multi-purpose fields used for soccer, football, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse.
“When I look at these business developments and the excitement around these ideas that are coming to fruition, I get excited to communicate these things to others,” Duncan Gardner says. “Truly, it’s a service and an honor to do that for the people who live here.”
The Gardners, Hamilton County residents since 2004, have three children: Ellen (15), Lauren (13)and Duncan (11). An active family, the couple spends their free time either exercising or watching their kids play soccer and tennis. Though Duncan Gardner (a former community theatre performer) always dreamed of starring in a Broadway musical, she’s perfectly content just where she is in life.
Going forward, Duncan Gardner and her team are focused on being hyper-local and reaching communities by engaging via social media and other non-traditional means.
“We want to be involved in those conversations on Facebook and Twitter,” Duncan Gardner says. “We want to make sure our neighbors know about local events and opportunities.”
Duncan Gardner feeds off the energy and the entrepreneurialism of her office, which has public affairs and community engagement personnel all in the same hallway. She also commends the mayor for doing a fantastic job of assembling teams of people who are passionate, energetic and professional.
“We’re all about communication and thinking of ways to engage the community and the many amenities around here,” she says.
Duncan Gardner is thrilled to be on the ground level of such entrepreneurial leadership as she and her team work to develop programs and strategies to share with citizens, visitors and business prospects. She also loves that the job aligns with her current priorities.
“Being able to contribute to something positive that could impact people fits with who I am,” says Duncan Gardner, noting that she comes from a family steeped in community service (her mom was a state representative, her dad a high school principal). As a result, service has always been a core value of hers as she’s felt compelled to do all she can to serve others.
After all, happy citizens are what make up a great city. She’s especially grateful to those who work to innovate while still preserving history — something that’s not easy to do but is truly necessary. According to Duncan Gardner, the next step is to bring together those who will make creative, economic and emotional investments while maintaining the willpower to surge forward.
“Westfield is not a community that’s stagnant by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “Just go down to Grand Junction Plaza or Grand Park or into any neighborhood, really, and feel that community spirit. Something is different here. Westfield is something special.”