As director of public affairs and media relations for The Heartland Partnership, Renee Charles is in charge of coordinating, implementing and managing community vibrancy projects, and is a public relations consultant for related companies and organizations. She serves as spokesperson for The Heartland Partnership, working with a variety of audiences, from media outlets to company stakeholders. Charles has created and implemented strategic PR and media relations plans and launched an entire video production department within the organization, allowing it and its partners to broadcast messages in a new way.

An anchor of The Morning Mix and the Noon News on WMBD-TV from 1998 to 2002, Charles has long supported the Peoria area and highlighted its many attractions. Although her career took her away from the community for several years, she continued to promote the Peoria area from afar until she returned in 2008, joined The Heartland Partnership and took upon herself the daunting task of promoting the region during the recession.

In her early months with the organization, Charles worked with the local media to tell the real story of what was happening in the area. She led the community campaign, It’s Better Here, which received national attention as it highlighted how well Peoria weathered the national storm. This project has since evolved into the I’m Stepping Up and Project Pack the Place campaigns.

Charles volunteers her time with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, where she is one of the youngest members on the board of directors. She serves on the orchestra’s marketing committee and is chairperson of the nominating committee. Charles also commits her time to the Peoria Charter School Initiative, where she serves on the communications committee, and has been involved with the Peoria Jaycees and Wildlife Prairie State Park.

In 2000, Charles was crowned Miss Illinois USA, representing Peoria and the State of Illinois at the Miss USA pageant. She traveled the state talking to young people about the importance of education and continues to mentor young girls interested in pageantry and modeling. Her goal is to impress upon them that it’s about more than winning a crown—it’s about doing good with the title that matters most. iBi