COLUMBIA — City officials took a different path at this year’s annual retreat. They are working on a strategic plan instead of debating specific issues and other pressing matters.
Last year, the City Council and department staff focused largely on street and sidewalk conditions and the Short Street garage. This year, City Manager Mike Matthes said the retreat was designed to lay the “foundation steps” for a three-year plan for the city.
“The plan lays out here and now what we want to think of for an inordinate amount of time,” Matthes said.
The council and department members spent Friday whittling down a long list of topics to seven priorities that will be the heart of the council’s strategic plan — growth management, fiscal health, infrastructure, health and safety, economic development, customer service and the work force.
On Saturday, council members will address each priority to identify where work needs to be done.
The seven targets are based on an earlier evaluation of the city's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strengths include a 24/7 service-oriented work force, good fiscal management, innovative use of resources and accountability.
Among the weaknesses are persistent silos that affect communication, low employee morale, work force retention, lack of consensus on economic development, a lack of growth management plan and an inadequate pension program.
Human Resources Director Margrace Buckler said building a better environment for city employees required necessary action.
“If you don’t put a focus on the work force in the next three years, you are going to be in a world of hurt,” Buckler said. “They feel undervalued; they feel like they are the last of the last.”
Matthes called the strategic plan a “surgical” approach to the council’s future agenda and said the plan would allow the council to be more accountable to Columbia residents.
“It’s better to lay out what you want to accomplish; otherwise, how else will you be judged?” Matthes said. “It’ll be a way to evaluate how we met those goals.”
Other city departments already had a strategic plan, Matthes said, and the retreat was a way for the council to develop its own.
“The ideas we come up with today will have long-term ramifications,” Matthes said.
The retreat was held at the Activity and Recreation CenterFriday and will continue from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.