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County IT Project Manager Mel Blanchard
County IT Project Manager Mel Blanchard on Wheel of Fortune. Photo by Carol Kaelson.

County Employee Wins Big on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Author: Information Technology
Date: 2/21/2019 7:02:55 AM

County IT Project Manager wins a trip to Florida and thousands of dollars on 'Wheel of Fortune'.

Soon after County IT Project Manager Melissa Blanchard applied to be a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” in May 2018, she forgot about it – she was planning a wedding and managing big IT projects for the County. Months later, she would appear on the show to win a trip to Miami and thousands of dollars.   

The Nipomo, CA resident grew up watching “Wheel of Fortune” and was surprised when she was asked in October 2018 to audition in Culver City. She was later cast as a contestant and earned second place during an episode that taped in December and aired on February 1, 2019.

“Everyone was so ecstatic to be there, and you could just feel the energy radiating through the room,” she said. “We got to practice spinning the wheel and pushing the ‘toss-up’ buttons beforehand, then went right into taping.”

The network taped six episodes that day, she said, and she appeared in the fifth taping. Blanchard was one of two contestants from California, while the rest were from the East Coast. She said that during her taping, she not only scored a trip to South Beach in Miami, Fla., accommodations at the Beacon Hotel, and $8,500 (before taxes), but she also got a good workout.  

“The wheel was very heavy – 2,400 pounds!” Blanchard recalled. “I spun it about 50 times that day, between the practice and the actual episode taping. So, I was pretty sore the next day. And the day required lots and lots of clapping! We got to watch the other episode tapings before us from the audience, so we helped with the clapping.”

During her appearance on the episode, Blanchard was star struck.

“Pat Sajak starts walking over to me, then I forgot that I even solved a puzzle and just blurted ‘OMG, you’re Pat Sajak!’“ she recalled. “I’ve been watching him on the show since I was a little kid, so I definitely had a fan-girl moment. But he playfully responded ‘Well, someone’s gotta be!’ And then he told me that I had just won a trip to Miami, Florida. So, I think I almost burst with excitement!”

While she’s not quite sure yet what her trip will entail, she says she was just happy to appear on the show.

“It was such an incredible experience,” Blanchard later said. “My favorite part probably being that I got to interact with the other contestants and learn so much about each one of them.”

Blanchard works behind the scenes in her role as an IT project manager for the County of San Luis Obispo. She was instrumental in the project to redesign the County’s website and is currently managing a project to change the content management system for the County’s employee portal. She has worked for the County IT Department for about three years, is a certified associate in project management. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Cal Poly SLO.