Sonoma County Office of Education

Employee Spotlight: Eric Wittmershaus

01/31/2022 - Eric Wittmershaus

Eric Wittmershaus

Years at SCOE:
I am brand new to SCOE, having started in December.

Job Title:
Director of Communications

How do you describe your job to people outside SCOE?
I handle media relations, coordinate communications between SCOE and Sonoma County's 40 public school districts and community partners, try to keep SCOE employees up to date on the latest happenings and do my best to support my talented, experienced and dedicated colleagues. In these early days, much of my job has revolved around communications to the public, schools and SCOE employees about the current COVID-19 surge. I try to stay up on the latest policy developments and work to explain them and answer questions about guidelines that are often in flux.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Wisconsin, in a Mississippi River town called La Crosse, which is home to the world's largest six-pack (no kidding). I moved to the Bay Area for a job in the news media shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I've lived in Sonoma County since 2011, and also lived here from 2001 to 2005, with a stint in San Francisco in between.

Who was your favorite childhood teacher and why?
Mr. Poehling taught several of my social studies classes and was great at channeling my teenage restlessness into academic pursuits. I especially appreciated his approach to U.S. history. After recognizing early in his career that he always ran out of time at the end of the school year to explore recent history, he began starting US history with World War II, the Cold War and the struggle for civil rights, before working his way up through Vietnam, the AIDS crisis and the Gulf War. Once he was caught up to the present day, he then wound the clock back to the earliest days of the republic. I remember him saying, "The last 50 years are the most important for you to know."

What is your favorite thing about SCOE?
Since I came to SCOE, I've been blown away daily by how kind and generous with their time all of my colleagues are, and the enthusiasm and passion they display when talking about their work. I have enjoyed getting to know people and hearing them describe their professional journeys and the work they do supporting our school communities. If you would like to schedule a get-acquainted session, don't hesitate to reach out.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a SCOE employee?
Joining right as COVID-19 surged because of holiday gatherings and the omicron variant means it's all been pretty memorable so far, but on a lighter note, I was briefly locked out of the building without my keys or coat the week of New Year's.

Outside of work, what is your favorite hobby or way to unwind?
My favorite thing to do is take my Lab mix, Cleopatra, on a hike or on other adventures to a park, outdoor food spot or to visit friends. The past two years, it's been primarily outdoor adventures. Cleo is a social butterfly who loves exercise, so she helps us meet new people and stay grounded and balanced. Also, I'm a fiend for NBA basketball and probably own too many vinyl records.

What is your favorite place in Sonoma County?
My favorite regular hike is Helen Putnam Park just outside Petaluma, as my wife and I lived nearby for about a decade. But when I have time, the Sonoma Coast can't be beat. We love to stop at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone for a scone and coffee and continue to Doran Beach or one of the coast's many other beaches, parks or overlooks.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?
When I first finished college, I spent a couple of years dabbling in arts and entertainment journalism. My most memorable interview came over coffee with a first-time novelist named James Gunn. His fiancée Jenna Fischer tagged along and we spent about 90 minutes chatting about his book and their efforts to break through in Hollywood. Things turned out pretty well for them.