March 29, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Naming your public relations business after a close relative of the weasel family is a dicey
move for a startup. But not if you know the backstory.

Teresa Gleason and her husband, Tim McMahan (creator of the long-running music blog Lazy-i), were driving around Benson trying to figure out a name for her new PR company. McMahan suggested Polecat, the beloved, defunct Omaha band. The name stuck.

“Public relations people, a lot of times, are thought of as weasels,” Gleason says. (Polecat, incidentally, is also another term for a skunk.)

“But both weasels and public relations people are necessary to keep the world going around. I kind of like the symmetry of that.”

Wearing a grey knit stocking cap and a camouflage Lutmer Construction hoodie on an inhumanely cold Saturday in January, Gleason surveyed her Benson office. It didn’t take long.

“I’m literally in an 11 by 14 box,” Gleason says.

As Gleason spoke, a calm stream of water came out through a pipe, and flowed to a drain near her office couch.

“Every time someone runs the kitchen faucet, it drains there,” Gleason observes.

“It’s just all part of the quirky charm of Benson.”

Gleason described Polecat as a “one-shingle communications agency” that focuses on content creation and promotion for small businesses and non-profit companies. Her office is also home to her art gallery.

After graduating from Iowa State with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism and mass communications, Gleason worked for small daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Iowa. Like most start-up employees, Gleason had to fit many roles as a reporter—covering sports one day, then covering city council and board meetings the next.

Gleason moved to Omaha in 1995. Her original plan was to live here for a year, then move on. She got a job as a writer and editor for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Three years later, she joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she later became director of communications.

In 2006, she joined the non-profit organization Omaha by Design, where she was communications manager. In addition to writing grants and generating media releases, Gleason organized grassroots projects. Connie Spellman, former executive director of Omaha by Design, says Gleason’s defining project was her work with the $2 million sidewalk expansion project in Benson.

“Her general ability to communicate has always been something I admired and respected,” Spellman says.

Spellman retired in June 2015. Gleason says Spellman’s retirement played role in her decision to start her own business.

Gleason was drawn to Benson for its wealth of creative-minded neighbors and business owners.

“People up here are interesting, quirky, out-there…they’re not afraid to try stuff on their own,” Gleason says.

Gleason opened an art gallery within her business to give local artists a venue to display their work. In March, artist Jennifer Radil will present “You Are Here: Paintings on Paper and Wood.” Radil’s work draws heavy inspiration from landscapes, topographical maps, and wildlife.

“I really love artists,” Gleason says. “The way they think, and the way they process things, and the way they’re just not afraid.”

Visit polecatcommunications.com to learn more about the company and the gallery.

TeresaGleason2

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