LARGO -- Dan Beeman, an expert in these things, mentioned at the retreat Largo's high command held last Friday that there was one municipality that came up with a mission statement that went on for two pages.
Beeman, who grew up in Pinellas County but became an accomplished consultant, author, licensed ship captain, pilot and other things, led the retreat for the Largo hierarchy in an exercise of harmony and a search for common goals.
Behind all this, of course, is Steve Stanton, the city manager. You can look at his tenure as CM over the past 13 or so years, note the progress in the city and if you connect the dots you come up with an obvious conclusion.
Anything the CM does, of course, has to be greenlighted by the City Commission so the encomiums can be shared equally.
Friday's session was clearly in the spirit of driving ahead, taking Largo, a former droopy drawers whistle stop on the way to somewhere else, to the next level of municipal polish and shine.
Stanton's general staff is made up of 12 department heads (two are in the wings, waiting to take over in 2005) and this is a serious bunch. No sign of internecine squabbling or niggling is visible among this crew.
The absence of such beastly behavior may be attributed to the way Stanton manages, because he has assembled a team that clearly works well together.
To sit in at Friday's session was like being present at a private gathering for the discussion of family business. But Largo runs an open government and though the public could have been there it wasn't, but its representative was.
Foremost on the collective minds of the Largo commission and the city staff is the city's strategic plan, a much worked dream for the future that is intended to give Largo some cohesiveness, a sense of planning, beauty, purpose and the goal of making the city a destination for business, culture and entertainment.
Some progess has already been made with the beautiful downtown Central Park, the Cultural Center (in the park), a $23 million library a-building.
There is a desire, too, to creat a distinctive identity for the city in holistic fashion -- that is, where innovations go right down into the neighborhoods with a capillary effect that gives the city a "body" wholeness.
Beeman had some good things to say. Almost at the level of cliches, but when was it not good to accomplish what a cliche suggested?
Meeting goals, Beeman opined, comes through management and leadership. The city seems to have that well in hand. He modified the old saw, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" into "If it ain't broke, make it better."
Get "misson, vision and values" in alignment Beeman said. Identify the stakeholders -- customers (the citizenry), suppliers (also the citizenry, because they have to come up with the money) and the workers (the whole city leadership/management/employees).
That will clear the way, he said, to develop and implement the strategic plan, develop and implement tactical plans, evalutate and improve as you go and hopefully arrive at a desired destination.
Largo's mission statement is succinct: to provide superior services that enhance the quality of life and community pride. That should be sufficient, though there was a temptation to needlessly lard that up with other excess wordage.
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