What started as a suggestion to use a free product has become a focal point of where Wright County will be heading in its future as it takes a measured approach to strategic planning for the county’s future.
As part of a technology contract the county had with the firm InfoTech, the contract included a free workshop to deal hands on with strategic planning for the county’s future. Mere days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state, the Wright County Board of Commissioners met with representatives from InfoTech and created its own set goals and value that would be a guideline for future planning and day-to-day business practices.
Wright County Administrator Lee Kelly said the need to get collaboration from county departments and leaders from the cities and townships was key to making the workshop a success and gleaning the information needed from all those groups to make the project a success.
“We started this process in March, but COVID kind of got in the way and slowed down what we were planning a little bit,” Kelly said. “It’s an ongoing process that has taken some time to develop from those first meetings. We have already started to incorporate what we learned at the workshop into how we approach planning, what our objectives are, what our mission and vision should be and what values we share as a county.”
The strategic planning process began with a four-day workshop that incorporated input from county department heads as well as city and township leaders from every local government unit in the county. It was during this process that the Wright County Board and staff developed a mission statement, vision statement and value streams by which planning is done – for the county as a whole and individual departments within the county.
The county board adopted a vision statement that reads, “The Wright County supports the pursuit of an optimal quality of life. Education, opportunity, relaxation and prosperity at your doorstep.” The vision statement pertains to goals of residents in one of the fastest growing counties in the state – a sustained growth that has brought more people to live in the county because of what it has to offer as opposed to those looking to find a place to raise a family that is safe and has the opportunities for education, business growth and an appreciation for the outdoors that has been vanishing in other growth counties.
The Mission Statement reads as follows: “Wright County provides fiscally responsible, quality services through innovation, leadership and compassion.” County government is a servant of the residents and the county board has committed itself to adapting to the sustained growth the county has enjoyed and the board is committed to keep its per capita spending in the bottom third of the state while still providing services and having its residents feel safe, valued and respected.
The Value Streams approved deal with how county government interacts with the public and works alongside cities and townships to assist in their own ambitions and dealing with growth in their communities. There are six Value Streams that the county board approved: “Empower the Use of Land, Property and the Environment,” “Shepherd Economic Growth,” “Optimize Civic Engagement,” Promote Safe and Healthy Communities,” and “Develop County Infrastructure.”
All of these Value Streams are intended to be a blueprint for any of the major decisions that county makes, whether it is a request from a department head for an employee, a land purchase or programs and initiatives that deal directly with county residents. Before it gets county board approval, it must prove to be in conjunction with one or more Value Stream.
Kelly was pleased with how seriously the county commissioners took the process, which was spread over four consecutive days in early March – just days before the state instituted its Stay at Home executive order.
“With their different schedules, it is difficult to get all five commissioners together for one day, much less four days in a row,” Kelly said. “They took this process very seriously. We had one day with just the commissioners to get a high level overview of how to set up an effective strategic planning process. That was followed up with sessions over the next three days with county department heads and representatives from our cities and townships. It was truly a collaborative effort with many people involved and it was a major lift to get so many people together and provide their input so we had as comprehensive a starting plan as we could. All of those groups brought ideas and concerns that, in some cases, we hadn’t considered. We came out of those meetings with a much better understanding of the needs of our county departments, our cities and our townships – and those needs can be very different.”
With the adoption of the Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Value Streams, the county will be using those as a template for most of the major decisions the county board will be made in the future.
“We used these elements in our budgeting process with our department heads and had them come up with plans for their own departments laying out their own goals and to justify requests using the methodology we used to create the Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Value Streams,” Kelly said. “The goal is to make Wright County efficient in how we deliver service to our residents and that involves every department in county government. We realize that, as a growth county, there are going to be challenges in the future that we hadn’t planned for. COVID-19 is a perfect example of the unexpected landing in your lap and you have to come up with a solution to continue the delivery of services. Moving forward, we feel the county will be much better prepared to face the challenges we will encounter and, working with our departments, cities and townships, we expect to have a county we all can be proud of and glad to call our own.”