CAPIO ADVANCED TRACK: Being Your Agency’s Strategist: Advancing Into an Executive-level Communications Role
Power Lunch Webinar


Transitioning from being your agency’s tactical expert to overseeing communications strategies and providing strategic counsel requires adding new leadership skills to your communications toolbox. From having a seat at the executive table to leading staff, there are many new expectations to navigate.

Hear from Scott Summerfield and Sheri Benninghoven, APR, principals of SAE Communications on how to propel your career forward into a leadership role at your organization. In addition to their extensive experience serving in communications leadership roles in local government, Scott and Sheri also have expertise in assisting public-sector clients with executive communications recruitments. They will share their decades of expertise and knowledge with attendees.

Attendees will also learn from a recent leadership case study from Assistant to the City Manager Lauren Sugayan.

Key Topics Covered During This Webinar:

  • Cementing your role as the agency’s communications strategist and having a seat at the table
  • Managing and inspiring staff
  • Moving from a tactical to strategic role
  • Developing “mini” strategic communications plans for projects and issues
  • Managing crises of confidence challenges
  • Showing the value of communications to your organization
  • Applying for leadership roles and what helps you stand out during an interview
  • Developing key leadership skills before you get the job

CAPIO’s Advanced Track courses are offered to members with more than five years of experience in communications (or related field) and/or to CAPIO members who have completed CAPIO’s Certificate in Communications.


Recorded: April 15


Linkedin Handles

Scott Summerfield:

Sheri Benninghoven:

Lauren Sugayan:



Scott Summerfield is an expert in strategic communications counsel with over three decades of award-winning public information/public participation experience, along with tenures at several organizations focused on community issues. Scott specializes in assisting our clients with their media training programs and strategic counsel.

Scott is the former Public Information Officer for the City of Newark and also served as project manager for the largest grant program in League of California Cities history, supervising a team of nine communications consultants throughout the state who worked with local communities to implement public education and public participation projects.  

Scott also served as Director of Communications for the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. The Oakland native is a graduate of San Diego State University in Telecommunications/Film. He is a past president of the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) and recipient of their lifetime achievement award; grants chair of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame; a former executive board member of the City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA); a board member of the Bay Area Cable Excellence Awards; a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles; and is a course manager and crisis communications instructor at the California Specialized Training Institute.


Sheri Benninghoven, APR, is the former Communications Director of the League of California Cities and one of California’s most experienced public relations professionals in helping corporations and public agencies develop strategic public relations programs. As one of two principals of SAE Communications, she serves of counsel to the firm’s public agency clients. Areas of expertise include writing public agency communications plans, writing National Incident Management System (NIMS)-compliant crisis communications plans, counseling agencies when crisis strikes (from mass casualty incidents to “crises of confidence”), teaching key message development and delivery, and executive coaching.

Sheri is a former member of the adjunct faculty of the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles and a former Vice President/Group Manager and Global Account Director for Ketchum Public Relations.

She served as Public Information Officer for the City of Anaheim; is a past president of the California Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, from which she’s accredited; a member of the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) and a recipient of their lifetime achievement award; is a founder/past board member of the City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA); and is a founder/instructor at the California Specialized Training Institute’s (CSTI) crisis communications program.

A graduate of California State University, Fullerton in Communications and Public Relations – and recipient of their alumni professional achievement award — she also graduated from the Public Sector Marketing program from Public Technology, Incorporated (PTI) in Washington, DC.


Lauren is the assistant to the city manager for the City of Union City, a small, diverse city of 75,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lauren led community relations and organizational reforms for the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department in the aftermath of the high-profile police shooting death of Oscar Grant in 2009 (a tragic event that was eventually made into an Oscar-winning film). Lauren then went on to successfully lead the City of Hayward’s Police Department through a re-accreditation process with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies ensuring the agency met national best standards. In her time at the Hayward Police Department, Lauren also facilitated the implementation of body-worn cameras to improve police accountability and professional standards. In 2015, she transitioned her career to city management where she led the development of the City of Union City’s inaugural five-year strategic plan. Today, she oversees the plan’s implementation, along with city communications, crisis and emergency management and fiscal planning initiatives.