City Council looks at hiring a strategic plan facilitatorAlthough City Councilman Ken Schulz was willing to shoulder the strategic planning process, other council members said the plan should have an outside facilitator. In past meetings, council members have gone back and forth on whether to do a strategic plan as well as who would do it. Schulz said he had determined from those meetings, the council wanted it done with volunteer help.
Although City Councilman Ken Schulz was willing to shoulder the strategic planning process, other council members said the plan should have an outside facilitator.
In past meetings, council members have gone back and forth on whether to do a strategic plan as well as who would do it. Schulz said he had determined from those meetings, the council wanted it done with volunteer help.
“I was going to go ahead on my own,” he said.
So Schulz told the City Council’s Building, Planning and Zoning Committee earlier this week he was going to start with focus groups. The focus groups would cover various groupings such as different ages, business, health care, city employees and volunteers from boards. He said he wanted the participants selected by the end of March.
“I’m looking at nine, 10 people for each focus group,” Schulz said. “We need to have input from the community and focus groups are the best way to do that.”
Each focus group will brainstorm the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. That input will go back to the City Council to join other data in development of the SWOT analysis.
Mayor Clarice Liechty questioned the worth of individual opinions going into the SWOT, saying the information may not be factual. City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said facts aren’t the important piece, brainstorming is.
“For the SWOT analysis, brainstorming is a strength not a weakness,” Schwartzkopf said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a fact, in the end all the focus groups’ data will come down to commonalities. But you don’t want to inhibit the brainstorming.”
A SWOT analysis is labor intensive and other council members wondered if it wouldn’t be more useful to hire someone to go through the process.
“You need to have someone coordinating the process. It’s probably the key to a good plan,” said City Administrator Jeff Fuchs.
Schwartzkopf added a facilitator would be impartial and the SWOT analysis, in particular, would get done in a timely fashion.
“Perhaps you should hire someone to keep the process moving along,” he said.
Schulz said it was his understanding the council didn’t want to pay someone to facilitate the strategic plan.
“It appears now there’s interest on the part of the council that the city should contract with someone experienced in doing this,” he said later. “I was surprised that the mayor appeared to feel the city should contract with someone.”
Fuchs and Schulz will research potential facilitators and present their suggestions and associated costs at the March City Council meeting. Councilwoman Kelani Parisien said in order to get the best results for the city, the council should contract with someone with expertise in government strategic planning. Schulz said it appeared facilitators could be found through the League of Cities, the University of North Dakota or South Central Dakota Regional Council.
Schulz said he didn’t care whether the council contracted with someone or not. He just wanted to get the plan finalized by Dec. 31.
“If they don’t want to contract with someone, I’m ready to proceed on my own with focus groups,” he said. “I don’t want to delay this or table it or put it off anymore. We just keep putting fires out now.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org