Each month, the Austin Young Chamber will highlight a member who is doing extraordinary work to strengthen our businesses, our community…or both! Showcasing their achievements is just one way we can put a spotlight on the talented, collaborative, and community-focused workforce we have here in Central Texas.
This month we’re highlighting Rifeline – a Young Chamber Corporate Member and a public involvement and community relations firm serving organizations that rely on public support to achieve their goals. We talked with Lynda Rife, Founder & President, about what inspired her to create Rifeline, projects their team is most proud of, and the importance of young professionals getting involved and informed on projects impacting our community.
Austin Young Chamber: What inspired you to create this company?
Lynda Rife: By the time I was in my 40s, I had attended Purdue University and the LBJ School at UT, worked for a school district, state government, two Fortune 500 companies, and a political consulting company. I had learned a lot but hadn’t really landed on a career path. I was living in Austin but most of my work was in California. Then, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston and flooded a construction and demolition landfill; it stunk, and people were angry. I got a call from a former boss who asked if I wanted a job. He needed help with the community. I told him that I wasn’t sure I wanted to work back in the waste industry, and he suggested I start my own company and that he would be my first client. So that is what I did. I only had one client for the first two years so it was me in my car or working from home. But slowly I got more clients and I needed help. It was really scary when I hired my first employee, and now Rifeline is proud to be a company of over 20 professionals and growing.
I started my own company because I liked the work. I like working with communities to make projects better. I like working on government projects for the greater good. I like doing the next right thing rather than following the right policies and procedures. So by making the leap to love my work, the company was created.
Austin Young Chamber: Tell us about the day-to-day operations and activities of Rifeline.
Lynda: As a public involvement and community relations firm serving organizations that rely on public support to achieve their goals, Rifeline’s day-to-day activities can vary from project to project. My team can be dressed up in a suit working with elected officials one day and in steel-toed boots and safety vests knocking on doors near a construction site the next. But at our core, our job is to take technical material and make it understandable. Our job is to connect the community with our clients.
Open, honest two-way communication is crucial to public involvement, which seeks the direct voice of the community when considering major infrastructure projects, such as Project Connect or I-35 Capital Express. This type of engaged community outreach takes a collaborative approach and is so central to who we are at Rifeline. Our team-first mentality is one of the key components to our success and growth over the last 20 years. At Rifeline, I promise people that they will learn something new every day. I promise them that they have a team to support them.
Austin Young Chamber: What recent projects is your team most proud of?
Lynda: I love seeing the projects Rifeline worked on get built. I love driving by the Red Line, MoPac Express Lanes and the Dell Medical School and knowing we had a small part in getting those projects off the ground. The most recent project I am proud Rifeline is a part of is Project Connect. Approved by voters in 2020, Project Connect is a public transit project that will help transform Austin into one of the most sustainable, inclusive and innovative regions in the country. I think that it will truly change our city for the better.
Currently, Rifeline works closely with the Project Connect team to develop and implement a community engagement program to support the development of the program. We also provide feedback and advice to the leadership team, and effectively work cross-departmentally to move elements of the program forward.
Project Connect recently wrapped up a series of community conversations on topics such as a bridge over Lady Bird Lake, subway stations and traffic on the Drag. Rifeline was integral to the strategy and execution of these meetings. Through a coordinated team effort, these community outreach efforts engaged more than 4,000 people across Central Texas and provided valuable feedback and direction for Project Connect.
Austin Young Chamber: Why is it important for young professionals to be involved?
Lynda: The ever-changing ways in which we communicate has put an emphasis on new ideas and bringing new voices to the table. We need young professionals to continue to better their communities and work toward benefiting the public good.
I recently had the honor of facilitating an AISD bond advisory committee that included two high school students. They were amazing and brought such insight, humility and innovation to the discussion. We would have missed their voices and their lived experiences had they not been involved. We need young professionals to be engaged and feel ownership in the progress our community is experiencing. Having their perspective is vital to growing the next generation of leaders in our community.
To young professionals I would say, please get involved in your community. We need you to create the world that you and your children want to live in.
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