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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Life as a Community Outreach Specialist

02/08/07

Photograph of Denise Taiste

Denise Taiste has been with the FBI for more than a decade, but she’s one of our newest community outreach specialists. She hails from our Columbia office, which covers the entire state of South Carolina and its more than four million residents. Her job is to build the kind of trust and understanding so vital to our investigations across the state—from Charleston in the Coastal Plain…to the dunes of the Sand Hills…to the Piedmont region will its rolling hills and mountains.

Q: Describe a typical day.

Denise: Very busy! I actually wear two hats for the FBI. Full-time, I’m what we call a “supervisory administrative specialist,” providing all kinds of support on different issues involving human resources, records management, etc. to our executives, agents, task force members, and others. I’ve been doing community outreach since June, and I really enjoy it. I’m planning our first Adopt-A-School outreach in five years. I work closely with our media coordinator and with the media directly. And I attend meetings with all kinds of people inside and outside the Bureau. I’m pulled in a lot of directions, but all good ones!

Q: Many of our community outreach specialists say that the job, when you boil it all down, is about building trust. Has that been your experience?

Denise: Absolutely. Everything I do centers on that—whether it’s lining up an FBI agent to talk to a local civic group about how to protect themselves from cyber crime…or participating in local InfraGard meetings, which helps us create face-to-face relationships with our private sector partners so that information about infrastructure threats and vulnerabilities will flow freely between us…or re-igniting our Citizens’ Academy program, where we bring in community leaders from all walks of life so that they can see who we are and what we’re about and so that we, in turn, can understand their perspectives and issues. The idea is to help us open up to the public—to show that we’re not some super secret agency hiding in the shadows, but real people trying to do a good job of protecting the American people and how we really need everyone’s help and understanding to make that happen.

Q: Any memorable experiences so far?

Denise: Quite a few, but I think the one that stands out was the first evening of the first Citizens’ Academy I organized. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I hadn’t been community outreach specialist for long, and I wanted everything to be just perfect. That night as the 26 attendees began to arrive and we began talking, I suddenly felt at ease. After just five minutes I felt like we’d know each other for quite some time. And over the course of the evening—as I heard the laughter, the interest and excitement, and the positive feedback from each person—I thought to myself, “It’s going to be alright.” And it has. It has been wonderful.

Resources: FBI Columbia community outreach webpage