He and council will conduct strategic sit-down next month
Sitting in on his first Crookston City Council and Ways & Means Committee meetings as the city's new administrator this week, Shannon Stassen reported that he's talking to as many people as possible and reading as much as he can to get up to speed on things, and added that he wants to keep talking, but maybe in a more official and potentially profound capacity.
During the city administrator interview process, Stassen said he heard more than once that the council and city department heads would like to engage in some type of strategic planning effort in relatively rapid fashion. So, while Stassen said it doesn't necessarily have to be some huge undertaking that involves facilitators and the whole community at this point, he said he does want to set aside an evening or a Saturday soon to find out where council members see Crookston now, and where they'd like to see the community go.
Everyone left the Ways & Means Committee with instructions to figure out what dates in late February won't work for them, and then the hope will be to pick a February day that works for everyone.
Stassen said he wants to talk about the importance of partnerships and teamwork, whether the partners are long established, fledgling, or need to be kick-started. He mentioned the school district, Polk County, University of Minnesota, private business and industry, non-profit agencies and service clubs, and individual volunteers in the community as examples of vital members of the team.
"These are all people that want their community to be the best it can be, just like everyone around this table wants what's best for their community," Stassen said. "I'd like our planning efforts to take a big-picture look at where we want to go."
The planning process will likely involve revisiting the Crookston InMotion Destiny Drivers, he said, as well as the council's previous prioritized list of objectives. The council needs to determine what's been done, what still needs to be done, and whether or not any prioritized have changed.
Although all kinds of assets, challenges, projects and initiatives would no doubt be discussed at such a planning session, Stassen said another goal is to have a unified message, a shared goal regarding the things people would like to see happen in Crookston. "If everyone understands who we are and what we stand for, in the end it improves our product," he said. "It's important that people understand where we're going and where our focus is. That helps with the small decisions as well as the bigger, difficult ones. If you know where you're going, it helps you get out of bed in the morning and take on the challenges awaiting you."
When he added that "If we believe in it and live it, that's what we become," Stassen acknowledged that he probably sounded more like a coach, hearkening back to his days as football coach at UMC. But if he wants a team approach, he added, then a little motivational prose from the team leader now and then isn't such a bad thing.
Meanwhile, Stassen is meeting with all of the department heads, and he's asked them to invite him to their next staff meetings so he can meet everyone else and hear what they have to say.
"We all need to look at our demographics and, for example, how we'll serve the baby boomers and keep them here when they retire," he said. "We need to attract young families, entrepreneurs, good jobs...the things we always want. We need people to know that we live in a safe community with tons of activities and great services. We need to identify those assets, set goals, prioritize, and sort out what we can afford to do right now, what we can do later, and how we're going to fund the things we want to do."
If a project rises to the top, Stassen said it will be important to match that project with a person or persons in the community that have a passion for that project. "Whether it's one person or 10, if you go to them and tap into that passion, they're going to make things happen," he said.
At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye said that sounds great, as long as the council early on in the process is realistic about the budget and how much money is actually available to do some of the things they'd like to do.
"You don't want to get 10 passionate people all worked up and then not have a dime to give them for their project," he said. "Then the next time you beat the drum they'll say come back to us when you have some resources. We can identify some stuff, but then we have to be able to back it up with some resources."