GCSO names first bilingual public information officer

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Emry Dinman/For the Sun Tribune Liz Flores is the new Public Information Officer for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

EPHRATA — Ever since the Grant County Sheriff’s Office’s newly-minted Public Information Officer Elizabeth “Liz” Flores was a high schooler, she wanted to be involved in law enforcement.

She faced challenges at first, lacking opportunities to pursue her dream after she graduated from high school. Back then, her mother cautioned her against a career in law enforcement, fearing the dangerous situations Flores would be put in.

But the opportunity to return to school and pursue a degree in criminal justice didn’t elude Flores for good, and she received that degree from Big Bend Community College in 2018. Though she laments that she’s now too old to join the FBI, Flores has found a way to give back and get involved with the sheriff’s office.

Flores may have found a middle ground that would have kept her mother from worrying, as well. Since last November, Flores has been working as a volunteer PIO (Public Information Officer), becoming a vital part of a law enforcement team without putting her life at perpetual risk.

As a PIO, Flores sends out information to the public, either by press release or social media posts, and as the Sheriff’s Office’s first bilingual PIO, those messages now go to a community that couldn’t reliably access them before. The messages Flores shares can range from the relatively benign — reminding residents of fireworks regulations or an incoming thunderstorm — to emergencies like evacuation notices for major fires.

“It’s great to be able to communicate with people, especially when you have emergencies with the fires coming up, when information needs to go out to the public and needs to be out to the people who speak Spanish,” said Flores.

The first major fire of the season, the 20,500-acre Highway 243 Fire, was one of the busiest days Flores has seen yet. That fire threatened homes, spurring pressing evacuation notices that needed to be put out, immediately and late at night, into a community that is heavily Spanish-speaking. Flores was still working to spread the word on the fire’s spread by 1 a.m. the next morning.

Though Flores’ mother has passed away, Flores said she thinks her mother would be proud of the work she’s doing, work Flores finds satisfying and which she hopes to pursue for a long time to come.

“I feel great about it, and as long as I’m able to do it, I’m going to continue doing it,” Flores said.

Emry Dinman can be reached via email at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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