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Estella Gray, 37

Director of communications, State Attorney's Office, 13th Judicial Circuit

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  • | 6:00 a.m. October 26, 2018
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  • Class of 2018
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Estella Gray was never interested in leaving her global public relations firm job — she had built a successful career at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

But when a friend mentioned an opportunity that would allow her to continue to do the PR work she loved and combine it with making a difference in the community, it sparked her interest.

That job was director of communications for the State Attorney’s office in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, a position she took in May. With experience leading PR strategies for aviation, maritime and private utility clients, and prior to that, government affairs for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Gray mentions a few qualities that will serve her well in her new position. Not only has she brought a network of contacts, she also describes herself as cutthroat and creative, with sincere dedication to public service.

During the p[ast several months, her biggest challenge has been navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system and the nuances of the law. Continuously learning more from the attorneys she works with emboldens her to be a better spokesperson for impartial application of that law, she says. She’s also a strong believer that “if you can’t learn from the janitor or the receptionist, then you can’t learn from the CEO.”  

Currently, Gray is working to launch a youth mentorship program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, offering juveniles with intermediate offenses a path for their future. Gray is also on the board at the United Way Suncoast; Leadership Florida Connect; and the Florida Public Relations Association of Tampa Bay.

Gray says the best lesson she’s learned in her career is “you have to learn from the job you hated.” No matter the challenge, whether it be a difficult manager or lack of infrastructure, she says, “You have to thrive in the valley.”



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