“Google, take me behind the scenes of Boca Raton.”
It’s a command in Boca’s near future, as city employees explore a new way to deliver important information — a podcast, soon to be accessible by virtual home assistants like Google Home or Amazon’s Echo.
The city launched “Boca Behind the Scenes,” a weekly podcast that features interviews with municipal employees on questions often posed to city officials. The podcast currently runs online every Wednesday, but the city is inching toward making it available on smartphone apps, iTunes and Google Play stores and home assistants.
The podcasts, or downloadable installments of audio files, let listeners hear directly from city experts — police officers, laboratory technicians, records managers and more. Some of the upcoming episodes include police talking about upcoming changes to school security; a lab tech and the utilities director answering questions on water quality; and details on an artificial reef being dropped along Boca’s coast.
“We’re trying to follow the trends of how people receive information,” said city spokeswoman Chrissy Gibson. “Not everyone is comfortable on camera, so this is a good way to highlight city staff. You get information directly from our staffers who know that information better than anyone else.”
As podcasts grow in popularity, Boca Raton sees the medium as a way to reach more residents and “humanize” city employees.
“Historically we’ve allowed elected officials to be the face of Boca Raton,” Gibson said. “People rarely get to hear from the people behind the scenes.”
The municipal podcast is the first of its kind in Palm Beach County.
Staffers record “Boca Behind the Scenes” in a small studio with foam-lined walls at the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has a partnership with local radio operators Dean Miuccio and Joe Brennan, who produce segments about local businesses, entertainment and health, among other topics.
Miuccio hosts the “Boca Behind the Scenes,” which appears on the Boca Chamber Radio smartphone app and airs on the city’s radio station, AM 1650.
“There are so many studies out there saying online app listening is surpassing AM/FM radio,” said Miuccio, who has more than 20 years of experience in radio.
Delivering city news via podcast is new, but the medium allows personalities to shine, Miuccio said.
“There are real people that work in the city, and they have great personalities and interesting things to say,” Miuccio said. “This is a great way to highlight that.”
While recording an episode Tuesday, Miuccio interviewed utilities services director Chris Helfrich and laboratory director Ashtan Wydock. The pair shared insights on the city’s unique dual-water treatment plant, which provides both drinking water to homes and reclaimed water to parts of the city for irrigation.
Through water treatment jokes and anecdotes about interacting with concerned residents, the staffers answered some of the most frequently asked questions including, “Is bottled water better than tap?”
Wydock said she tested several common bottled water brands to compare bacteria levels with Boca Raton’s tap water.
“Some of those bacteria levels (in the water bottles), I wouldn’t want to drink that,” she said.