By Ian Croft
The major responsibility any member of a municipal council will have is ensuring the needs of the community are met through their governance. Vauxhall town council is striving to achieve these goals by beginning to implement their findings from their new strategic plan. Kimberly Lyall, a strategic planning consultant, joined Vauxhall council over Zoom to go over this new plan for the Town during their Dec. 12 meeting.
“As you know, my goal for this plan and the process was really to have a lot of engagement, a lot of interaction with yourselves, with your neighbouring communities, with the partners you already engage with, with partners that want to work closer with you, with your residents, with the community groups that do so much wonderful work within Vauxhall, and so to that end, we had nearly 200 that were engaged at some level or other,” said Lyall. “Be that direct interview, attending the meeting, responding to a survey, you name it — in various levels of engagement. Every time I engage I would come up with new ideas or hear new thoughts that people would come up with that would be exciting that I could include in the plan. There’s a lot of great information here that came directly from your residents, from your business owners, from your partners, and that for me is a sign of a good strategy that is coming from a multitude of voices that hopefully people can see themselves in here and want to be a part of that.”
After outlining how involved the community of Vauxhall was with the development of this new plan, Lyall then proceeded to discuss just how council should go about implementing this strategic plan.
“I did want to spend some time to go over with you how to use this plan because where strategic plans die is where they get printed off, where they get approved at council, and they go back to administration and get told ‘go ahead and do this.’ Then it ends up on their shelf because they’re busy and they got immediate deadlines. Five years pass, and you go, ‘wow, we should do a strategic plan again because we haven’t used the last one.’ There are a few things that are critical to making this a living document. Something that you as a council and a community always should do is to look back to move forward. That is the secret to having a strategic plan be really effective. The first thing you need to do is think of it as a framework for decision-making. All of the decisions you’re making going forward, you should be thinking, ‘does this align with what our strategic plan says?’ That’s why the mission, the visions, and the values were so critical to define because those were your guideposts in the terms of making decisions about.”
Additionally, Lyall discussed this strategic plan is not just an aid in municipal decision-making.
“The second thing is that it’s also a guide for the behaviour on the culture of the town,” said Lyall. “Both you as governance of the council that leads and makes decisions, and for the people that work within the town. Really you should be reflecting those values in everything that you do, and again, that becomes a framework on how you make decisions, who you work with, who are your partners, how you do your business, et cetera.”
Shifting gears, Lyall then discussed the looser deadlines that this strategic plan has.
“I wanted to touch on the phases and resource allocations. Normally when I do a strategic plan, I try hard to say these things are going to take place by this date, and sometimes you can do that a little bit easier with an organization instead of a town or community. It’s really important that those things are directed by you, and some of that will be dependent on where you allocate your resources. An example of that is we talked about having an economic development officer, either joint with the M.D. (of Taber), or part-time with the town, whatever that looks like. There are some pieces within that goal — some action steps that if you have an economic development officer, those activities can take place sooner.”
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