Debra Townsend A Strategic Career

While her first public relations position was at a large community college, Debra Townsend cut her teeth in politics – serving 12 years in government-related positions in her home state of Michigan, culminating in a position as head of the news office for the Michigan Senate and spokesperson for the Majority Leader who ultimately became the state’s three-term Governor.

Townsend moved to the Capital Region of New York in 1990 to become Director of News and Communications at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she initiated a renaissance in image and national profile that continues to this day.

After five years at Rensselaer, she spent a contractual year with the MapInfo Corporation, a start-up software company that had been spun out of the university. She also established its first public relations office and established affiliations with firms in England, Germany, and Japan. She advised company leaders on investor relations as it went public.

Debra joined the transition team for the incoming New York governor in 1995, serving as acting director of public information in the budget office before taking a position as Vice President for External Relations at Bennington College. In her two years there, she helped the college regain equilibrium and generate positive momentum after a series of crises and public relations issues threatened its stability.

Debra Townsend holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Michigan State University and has been accredited by the Public Relations Society of America.

She continually writes humorous essays, poems, memoirs, jingles, holiday messages, jokes, and speeches, not only for her clients but also for her own entertainment.

Debra Townsend