Set aside the question of whether City Hall Selfie Day should be a thing, or — perhaps even more critical — whether a group photo taken with a drone can properly be called a "selfie."
To Albany city employees, Wednesday's participation in City Hall Selfie Day had a serious purpose: "To show pride in where we work," said Matt Harrington, the city's media and applications developer.
It's also to kick off use of the city's Instagram account, cityofalbany. The social media link has been in place for some time — it even has 263 followers — but hasn't been used by the city until now, Harrington said.
Instagram and sites like it tend to attract "typically a younger demographic," Harrington said. "We want to engage with those people as well, in local government. We feel this is a perfect launching pad for that."
In other words, this isn't your grandfather's City Hall Selfie Day, if only he'd thought to have one.
Created by Engaging Local Government Leaders, which calls itself "a big tent local government organization with the mission of connecting, communicating, and educating about local government topics," City Hall Selfie Day is meant to to show pride in local government service and facilities by having employees take self-portraits in front of local government buildings and share them on social media.
This is the first time Albany has participated in the international event. City spokeswoman Marilyn Smith suggested it as a way of promoting the city's social media outreach efforts and possibly recruit people for jobs.
"It caught my eye, and we’re trying to beef up our social media presence: let people know that we’re here and we’re fun, we’re a good group of people and we like what we’re doing and we’re proud of it," she said.
And yes, the city has listed several job openings on its website, www.cityofalbany.net, and they'd love applications, she said. Openings are available for an assistant library director, a utility billing specialist, a building inspector — "Boy, are they hard to find," Smith noted — firefighter/emergency management technicians, police officers, water maintenance employees, bus drivers and more.
"We're hiring, but we're having trouble finding people," she said.
On Wednesday, about a quarter of the 95 people who work at City Hall took a quick time out to smile for the camera. Chuck Perino, the city's emergency manager, sent up D.A.R.R.E.L. the drone for a group photo.
Named in honor of former emergency manager and fire chief Darrel Tedisch, the drone's name stands for Deployable Aerial Research and Reconnaissance Emergency Locator.
Tedisch envisioned using drones with cameras to assess damage to bridges, which will be part of D.A.R.R.E.L.'s job. The city also brought the drone out earlier this summer to help search for a missing child (later found safe at her father's house) and to test as part of a water rescue drill. D.A.R.R.E.L.'s brother drone, Flashover — named in an Albany Fire Department contest — will be used to seek out hot spots in fires.
On this particular morning, however, D.A.R.R.E.L.'s only job was to get a good photo of some 25 people waving and smiling in front of Albany City Hall. That photo is now on its way to the city's website and Twitter account as well as Instagram, and will be sent to #cityhallselfie for a chance at a prize from Engaging Local Government Leaders.
Admittedly, the selfie shows only a handful of the city's 400-plus employees, Harrington said. But that just means the rest were on the job.
"They're serving the public," he said.