The ‘lucky and somewhat dull life’ of Wayde Byard: The story of an average census bureau’s rapid rise to fame


Wayde Byard poses with the Stone Bridge High school staff dressed in Byard merchandise. Teacher Faith Ibarra asked Byard for permission to put his face on the merchandise, and Byard made the counter proposal of having a photo shoot in it. Photo Courtesy of Faith Ibarra

     People young and old rush to his school canceling calls, while people in need hold out their hands to him. Whether it be the fire department or the Freedom of Information Act, they ask for his help. With the click of a button, a stranger accidentally made him the most famous census bureau in the country. But when public information officer for Loudoun County Wayde Byard looks at himself, all he sees is a man with a “lucky and somewhat dull life.”


     Although both Byard and the casual onlooker may agree that Byard is only a public information officer, Byard does far more than just giving government information to the public. In this he is a double edged sword; as he makes PSA’s for the fire department, but also speaks against accusations against the school by the fire department for being against fire safety regulation, as his duty as Loudoun County’s spokesman. 


     And while Byard gives information to the public on urgent matters, Byard explains how he receives information himself with his role in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The act gives the average Virginia citizen the right to request unreleased public documents to be released, and Byard handles these requests. According to Byard, he has gotten over 400 requests just this year.  


     This job is not a Byard exclusive, however, as Byard belongs to an education group called the National School Public Relations Association. This organization makes it their goal to support schools with resources and spokespeople to represent said schools.


     This career path was clear for Byard, as his dad was a superintendent, his mom was a teacher, and his wife was a college dean. Since so much work with education runs in his family, Byard thinks his job is a, “natural fit” and he “truly enjoys his job”


     Byard did not always have this fairytale reality, as his distress in his prior job as an assistant management editorial and crime/government/sports reporter factored into his current employment. Even though his job was relatively high paying amongst the other standard journalists, Byard realized that “newspaper (as a whole) was dying,” and decided to switch careers. 


     Regardless, his career switch was not so easy, as he still keeps baseball cards of players that he interviewed throughout the years of his career, enjoying the “sentimental value” even if these cards are “not particularly valuable.”


     Even though the transition was hard, Byard found even more success in being a public information officer than he did in his other job. Part of that job was sending a voice recording to every house in Loudoun County, and telling if school was closed due to weather conditions, although he got particularly famous for calling in for snow days. Byard comments on this phenomenon, saying, “Few people (in his workplace) share this kind of visibility.”


     Visibility includes both metaphorically and physically, with teachers such as  Faith Iberra from Stone Bridge high school contributing to Byard merchandise. Iberra reports that merchandise (like t-shirts with Byard memes and Byard cookies to match) “sold like crazy.”


     The profits for these merchandises usually go to giving their respective schools more supplies. Iberra says that the money gained from the Wayde merchandise is used to buy new supplies for their art department. 


    This taste of fame was heightened in 2014 when a single meme rapidly spread across the internet with Byard’s semi-famous call for school closure as the punchline. This quickly made a ‘cult-like following’ of fans for Byard that support and follow him to whichever social media outlet he goes – whether it be Twitter pages like ‘Friends of Byard’ (13k+ followers) or ‘@waydebyardfans’ (10k+ followers) on Instagram. Byard is surprisingly okay with this, however, as he sees “How knowledgeable and caring students are.”


     Though he enjoys the attention, even to this day Byard does not quite understand the amount of obsession that his fans show towards him, saying they “need to raise their standards.” So Byard raised their standards for them. 


     Ironically, the very same theme of an internet image that changed Byard’s life into being a local celebrity, also changed his point of view. A picture of a mother and child sitting out in the cold compelled Byard to join the cause of a general health charity named Our Health, saying that the image he saw was “simply wrong.”


     With Byard being on the general council of Our Health, the charity has made over 70,000 square feet of buildings for general client cases that have served over 100,000 people. Over 25 years of guiding Our Health to help 82 other non-profit organizations, Byard doesn’t regret any of it, saying “I’ve met the best people that I’ve come into contact with through this organization” and “it’s been an amazing journey.”