Originally created 06/05/99

City officials take lessons in planning



Augusta's commissioners haven't yet completed their plans for the city's future. But on Friday, they learned how to make them.

Commissioners spent several hours Friday with a professional facilitator, discussing the components of successful strategic plans.

In an informal session -- complete with dinky foam balls fit for hurling at out-of-line colleagues -- commissioners mulled over slides, tablets and flowcharts detailing the ideal planning process.

Facilitator John Perryman told commissioners that what happens in meetings, while important, rarely constitutes planning.

"Your role in Augusta and Richmond County is to make the city and county the best that it can be," Mr. Perryman said. "The trouble you find with most boards is that most boards end up dealing with stuff. Many times, it's trivial stuff. It's not so much the people as it is the process."

The commission should consider policy-making its sole concern, Mr. Perryman said, and leave enforcement of the policies to government officials.

The commission should set clear goals for the county, then meet with its officials to create objectives for meeting those goals, Mr. Perryman said.

Such an approach would require re-educating some city department heads, said Augusta Administrator Randy Oliver.

"You've got three or four department directors who really understand what goals and objectives are, and who want to push their departments ahead," he said. "You've got one or two whose goals were to buy nine desks, nine chairs and two tables."

Such a strict definition of the commission's duties also might affect city residents, who are used to being able to voice concerns directly to their elected leaders, some commissioners said.

Some initiatives, such as the "Augusta Cares" complaint hot line, already give new outlets to residents with concerns, Mr. Oliver said. But many residents prefer to speak to their commissioner, some officials said.

"Your constituents out there would not prefer that you give them a number to call," Commissioner Bill Kuhlke said. "They would prefer that you call that number yourself."

Brandon Haddock can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.