The Transylvania Times -

Commissioners Taking Another Look At County's Strategic Plan – Transylvania County, NC


August 19, 2019

In December of 2014, the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners began a process to develop a strategic plan, which would have goals and strategies that would guide county departments in their day-to-day actions and, in particular, influence budget priorities.

Roughly one year later, after input from focus groups comprised of local residents and the board, commissioners approved the plan in January of 2016. Recently, commissioners held a workshop to discuss the plan, to find out what’s been achieved since its implementation and what, if any, changes they would like to make.

At the workshop, Stephen Straus, with Developmental Associates, out of Durham, and who had worked with the county on the strategic plan, talked about how strategic planning in local government is different from the private sector.

All organizations, whether private or public, Straus said, have “resources” (money, people), engage in “activities” and have “outcomes.”

Straus used as an example someone opening a restaurant: he or she invests money in staff, training and a menu; the restaurant opens; and then operates with the goal of making a profit.

“What do you do next year? he said. “You put more resources and engage in more activities – more training, new menu, invest. And then do that each year.”

Unlike a business, however, there are “multiple outcomes” in government trying to be achieved, Straus said, and unlike a restaurant and making a profit, it’s “more difficult to measure outcomes” in government.

Straus gave five reasons why they do strategic planning in local government:

•Forces the organization to think about its purpose and its impact – to start rethinking about what it’s trying to achieve;

•Enables the organization to set priorities among competing demands;

•Provides continuity in a political environment – elections happen and agenda changes but having a strategic plan allows the government to stay on track;

•Provides a foundation for making budgetary decisions – can assess progress year-to-year. County has built-in outcomes; and

•Enables the organization to be proactive – unlike the view many have that government is always reacting.

It forces you to try and do better and to get better outcomes.

During the workshop, County Manager Jaime Laughter gave an overview of the specific strategic goals laid out in the plan and some of the outcomes. A story about her presentation will be in Thursday’s paper.


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