Connie Grosch, the highly respected photojournalist who was laid off in November as part of broader cost-cutting at the Providence Journal, has been hired as the press secretary for Congressman David Cicilline.
"I couldn't be more thrilled," says Grosch, who is slated to start in the new role on January 22.
Grosch, a staple at the Statehouse for years, was one of three talented photographers let go as the ProJo sought to reduce spending by $1.2 million. She worked at the newspaper for almost 18 years.
Political observers were shocked and saddened that Grosch was among the layoffs in November -- both because of her personal qualities and the prominent place her photography played in the newspaper's political coverage. During the House session on January 2, Representative Patrick O'Neill (D-Pawtucket) called Grosch one of the purest people he's ever met, and applauding lawmakers rose to their feet as Speaker Gordon Fox exclaimed, "We want Connie back!"
As it happens, Grosch will be back in the House chamber -- attending Governor Lincoln Chafee's budget address this Wednesday evening as part of her preparation for her new job.
Grosch says she enjoyed every day of her work at the Journal, where her photographs offered a window on the human qualities of Smith Hill. She says she was ready to embark on a different direction after being laid off, in part since finding another full-time photojournalism job in Rhode Island was unlikely. A desire to remain in the state and to stay involved with politics and government led her to get in touch with Cicilline, who she has known since his days as a state rep in the mid-90s.
While it's not every day that a photojournalist becomes a press secretary, the thinking is that Grosch's skill set (including her winning personality) is a good match for the job.
As Cicilline's press secretary, Grosch will also coordinate some special projects and social media efforts. She says she was initially a little nervous about changing the nature of her work, but is now excited about taking on the new role. "I think this is an ideal position for me," Grosch said.
Grosch fills a vacancy left by Raymonde Charles, who departed last year to work on President Obama's re-election campaign.
While many Rhode Island political figures expressed sympathy for Grosch after she lost her job at the Journal, Cicilline says he made the decision to hire her strictly because of her skills. "I'm excited that she's joining my team," he said, "and I know that she's going to be a great asset."