The City of Red Deer’s ambitious operations review will require a deft touch.
As much as most of us embrace the small-town values that typify the best of city services, we know that continued quality, consistency and growth will require astute planning and vision. And that means the kind of planning that is consistent with a more corporate, big-city view.
The planning will be done through the framework provided in the 2009 to 2011 Strategic Plan. On its face, it looks like many other government documents: full of well-meaning phrases and corporate organizational buzzwords.
But it contains a pair of statements, on vision (“Innovative thinking; inspired results; vibrant community”) and mission (“The City of Red Deer works together to provide leadership and sustainable municipal services for our community”), that set a progressive tone.
Ultimately, how the drive to create a new culture within and beyond city services is received has a great deal to do with the public’s expectations.
But we know that public expectations are high. And city administrators and municipal politicians know that too.
And the process of shaping city services to match the mission is already underway. Earlier this month, council endorsed a major review of city services, from policing to planning to how committees, boards and council interact and serve citizens. Also included will be a corporate leadership team that will be asked to develop a broader organizational framework for city staff.
Down the road, the city will also look at its hiring practices.
Much of this process is overdue. A similar review was last conducted 15 years ago, when city staff was half of what it is today (almost 1,200 people at last count) and the population stood at fewer than 60,000 (we’re at about 90,000 now).
The strategic plan is a guideline for ensuring that the focus on future growth and services is consistent with the values that make Red Deer such a successful community.
It talks about sustainability, both environmentally and fiscally. It talks about coherent development and the critical benefit of parks and recreation. It talks about regional partnerships and services. It talks about communication and consultation with all the players, from citizens to staff to regional officials. It talks about making decisions that will stand the test of time. It talks about creating a workplace culture that encourages excellence and stability.
It talks about quality of life, with focus on safety, culture and recreation. It talks about a community that grows with grace and character, and maintains caring services that meet public expectations.
In short, the strategic plan can be a road map for an even better Red Deer. One with the size to meet most citizens’ needs and the services and character that reflect our basic small-town desires.
There is no guarantee that the leadership and public appetite will be consistent with the plan over time. Councils change, public expectations change and financial means change.
But having a good plan is a huge part of ensuring good work gets done. Having a strong focus on a sound vision is equally critical. The city has contributed both.
Now it’s time to get to work.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.