The Main Thing
The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council hosted the first of its three-part strategic planning session in Council Chambers on Monday morning, June 5. Lorna Kibbey of Leadership Solutions facilitated the program that included the five Council members along with new Town Manager Roger Hernstadt, in a full group as well as small discussion sessions throughout the day.
Lorna began with Session Objectives, asking, “What do you hope we do today; what would make you happy?”
“I hope for a consensus of the vison of this Council, and a plan and start for that vision, and prioritize efforts for the next 1 and 5 and 10 years,” said Council member Joanne Shamp.”
“I want a better grasp on the community and quality of life on Fort Myers Beach, and to make clear our values, and how do we preserve those,” added council member Anita Cereceda, with Council member Bruce Butcher cautioning, “but not in a blue sky and mom and apple pie way, but in doable and achievable goals. This is about our current state versus our future state: the current is the good, bad and the ugly; the future state is what we want to be; and the middle is the strategy to get there.”
“I want us to follow through with results,” said Vice Mayor Tracey Gore. “The Town held previous sessions like this in 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2015, and we are still talking about the same things, so I want to set goals and move forward and get them done.”
“No disrespect to previous Councils” said Cereceda, “but every five people of a Council think in an isolated manner, as in ‘it is my turn to make the decisions,’ but you are not the director of the play, so to speak. This group will be together for the next two years and, agree or disagree, it is essential for us to be a functional group. We will not always agree, but must respect those decisions.” “Anita is right,” said the Vice Mayor. “There will be 3 to 2 votes, but no matter which side each of us ends up with, at the end of the meeting that is how it goes. Council must be one unit, so we must come together and support each other.”
Lorna said they will examine the Town’s mission and vision, “to see where we have been, are now, and will be in the future. When we finish, we walk out in agreement as to our priorities; we call that ‘commitment!’” She then led the group to discover “The Main Thing”: “What is our purpose, why do we exist, why are we here, what do we aspire to be? These are lofty goals, almost this side of the impossible is what we shoot for! The Main Thing is sacred, and Council must understand that The Main Thing is The Main Thing, but with two variations – one for the Town and one for Council.”
Shamp suggested that Fort Myers Beach should aim to be a “vibrant, livable, sustainable community. This ‘Community Livability’ benefits everybody; the residents for sure because they live here fulltime; as well as seasonal residents, customers, and visitors through public health, the local environment, social interaction, neighborly respect and pride, opportunities for entertainment, and unique cultural and environmental resources, and all that is Community Livability.”
Lorna then broke Council and the Town Manager into small groups, saying “you will put all these things into one sentence, and that becomes our ‘Main Thing,’ one for the Town and one for Council.” After the breakout session, Butcher suggested The Main Thing is a “vibrant island beach community,” with Council’s “to ensure a vibrant island beach community.” “’Unique vibrant livable island’ are the most important words,” added Shamp, “along with establishing policies in a fiscally responsible manner.” “That’s awfully close,” encouraged Lorna. Gore made a strong pitch to include “family friendly,” with Butcher countering that “when I think of family friendly, I think of small kids and this is not Disneyland. That is too restrictive.” Mayor Dennis Boback feels that “most of the beach community considers the community itself as a family.”
Council unanimously agreed The Main Thing for the Town is, “We are a unique and vibrant island beach community,” with “Govern responsibly to ensure a unique and vibrant island beach community” for Council. “We have done it! We identified our ‘Main Thing’ that we can all support,” said Lorna, adding an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
A Checklist For Success
The next assignment Lorna called “Defining Success. You now come up with three to six bullet points that define success; how does Council take care of the Town. Think of this as a checklist for success, by saying, ‘yup, did that one; yup, did that one!”
After meeting again in small groups, but with different members than the first breakout, Council determined its key words are Fiscal, Service, Feedback, Quality of Life, Manage Resources, and Preservation. With those in mind, they unanimously agreed on the following statements to Define Success:
We provide service levels to meet our community’s needs in a fiscally responsible manner while maintaining a strong financial position.
We are recognized and respected for maintaining our community’s strong quality of life.
We responsibly manage change to sustain a vibrant community.
We protect and enhance financial, environmental, and cultural community assets.
We obtain and effectively use feedback to be proactive in governing responsibly.
Cereceda noted with surprise that “small town character made it nowhere on our list, and we talk about saving that all the time!”
Challenges & Opportunities
Following this, Council evaluated the Town’s Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Threats, compared to those from earlier strategic sessions. Once complete, Lorna noted that while “there are quite a few new threats, quite a few old ones are no longer here, and that is a good thing.” Butcher said that most of the earlier planning produced “lists that are people-related, ours today concentrates on resources.” Lorna suggested that “perhaps this is a most honest assessment of the challenges we have,” with Butcher saying, “that is what the challenges are,” and the Vice Mayor adding, “but we can fix these things!” The Mayor stated that “Opportunities can be Challenges, and Challenges Opportunities,” with Lorna beaming: “This is one of those moments – you get it!”
With that, Lorna closed the initial forum. “You are starting to see how it all connects together, to determine progress and changes and expectations to go forward. Your assignment is to review what we did, to move into Day Two with what our action plan will be.” “This is a lot to deal with,” concluded Butcher. “These are the objectives and these the obstacles, and we determine how we can achieve that.”
“I will pay you for that later, as that was perfect,” said Lorna! “This is muddy and messy, but what we did today is a major accomplishment, to agree on The Main Thing and how to accomplish The Main Thing, and now we move ahead to fulfill The Main Thing!”
The second strategic planning session is Tuesday, June 20, in Council Chambers, with the public welcome, at 9 a.m.