A discussion about a need for citywide goals to knit together a common purpose evolved on Friday as the City Council and city department heads and managers met for a strategy discussion.
Discussions were helped along by a consultant, Robert Heacock of Spark Management Consultants, Blue Springs.
"It gave us a lot of good conversation about where to head next, and I'm excited to put some of those thoughts that we talked about on paper," said City Manager Sam Anselm at the end of the strategy session, held at the city's Public Safety Training Center.
The brainstorming session allowed dialogue between the elected council and the city staff to create common assessments and understandings of city strengths and challenges, such as how to manage growing needs with stagnant revenue.
The city manager said the result of the talks will be that Heacock will submit a bullet point list of the things discussed.
"I'll take that information and craft some of the goals discussed this afternoon," Anselm said. "I will organize it into about five, six or seven key talking points or areas of focus that the organization can start to move toward. I'm looking forward to doing that work and validating that with council and then staff can start preparing plans and budgets to accomplish those goals that council approves."
For a large part of the day, Heacock directed discussions of assessments of the city organization made by the council members and separately by city department heads in four categories. Those were: how each group perceives the city's purpose, the city's capacity or capability to meet community needs, if the city uses it resources well, and how to assess the city's performance of its work.
There was a consensus that there needs to be an overarching vision along with goals set that are understood by all departments and management so that the organization has a common purpose. All departments need to know the major projects each are working on and share information about how they can help one another support that work and the overall needs of the community.
Several common themes were sifted from those talks that the council will consider further to set short- and long-term goals. Those are:
• Compiling a vision statement that all departments, including council, can use to guide the direction of their efforts.
• Continue to provide responsible stewardship of the city's revenue and resources.
• Use technology where possible to update the city's internal processes and to provide services to residents.
• Provide good customer service.
• Be the most attractive city in Southwest Missouri.
Council members agreed that they should work on aligning the city's future vision statement with the other institutions with which they work, such as the Joplin School District and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
Heacock told the group those goals will lead it to the formal and informal steps that can be taken to achieve the vision. Developing that vision statement could be one of the short-term goals, he said.
The day started with Heacock asking council members to talk about their hometowns and their favorite memories. All but one said Joplin is their hometown or the place they regard as their hometown, a place where they safely played and rode bicycles as children, met their spouses, and maintained close relationships with family and friends.
Councilman Doug Lawson remembers chat piles and the woods that once stood next to the house where he grew up.
Heacock then asked the council members to describe what Joplin looks like to them if they were viewing it from 10,000 feet above.
The observation that seemed to echo in one way or another throughout the day's discussions was that Joplin has many older neighborhoods with deteriorating infrastructure and rental houses, and that makes some residents feel slighted when they see all the federal and state recovery money that rebuilt large sections of the tornado zone.
Councilwoman Melodee Colbert-Kean said, "I see progress but I also see potential in areas that are older. To me, I see a lot of newness and I see a lot of old, and when I see that, I see that we have a swath of new and rightfully so because of our tornado redevelopment. But my theme would be how are we going to connect all the old with the new. I see a lot of patchwork pieces of quilt, but how do we connect all of that to have a quilt instead of just pieces?"
Councilman Phil Stinnett said he sees diversity with the city's manufacturing and health care bases, but noted "Melodee brings out a point that I see about how to bring out connectivity with all the newness and the good things with the people who are still struggling in the older parts of town." He sees a need for repairs but adds, "I don't see a city struggling to move forward. It is moving forward."
Counicilman Ryan Stanley says he sees Joplin as a hub that from its start as a mining camp to today's strong manufacturing sector and its tornado recovery shows that it is "a community of doers."
There also was recognition that Joplin is a community at a new crossroads as it about to wind up what will be the last six months of tornado recovery projects.
Taylor Brown said he sees a lot of nonprofit organizations trying to effect local and global change.
"I see from 10,000 feet up a city in transition. And kind of teetering right on opportunity where we could very easily right now digress back into a way of life or tip over into thinking about the future," that could bring more growth. The city needs to be ready to address the potential for growth if that is what the future holds, Brown said.