“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” -unknown
I’m not really a quote guy…in fact I have a hard time remembering pretty much anything important…birthdays, anniversaries, names, anniversaries, where I’m supposed to be, picking up kids, anniversaries; however this quote has stuck with me for many years. Some might say that this is pretentious garbage; it’s the sort of thing that only the kind of person who thinks of themselves in the first category would say. My thought is that in an ideal world, I’d like to spend my time in the arena of ideas but disappointingly I often find myself in the last two.
One of the first lessons that I learned in business is that a business plan is critical to success. A plan keeps us focused; a plan keeps us on track. A plan holds us accountable; a plan allows us to measure success. A plan gives purpose to our work and a plan allows others to see our intent. A plan allows us to put our ideas into action in a way that everyone can see.
I’m going to start all of this with the admission that I really haven’t paid attention to city matters over the last twenty years. I found the entire thing boring, frustrating and confusing. It seemed to me that there was always something that had folks up a tree and to get fully informed required much more energy than I wanted to spend.
I’m going to get a little technical here, so allow me to place a disclaimer right up front. I am not an expert on these matters however I have done my best to wrap my head around this stuff.
About a year and a half ago, the citizens of Altus voted to change our form of government from a Statutory Aldermanic to a Council-Manager government by an overwhelming margin. I recently asked a former elected official to dumb down all of this into something that even I could understand. This person (who is probably one of the mythical “City Fathers”) told me that the (old) Aldermanic form of government basically made our mayor the CEO of our city. He made the final decisions on nearly everything from personnel decisions to financial. He was an elected official who was responsible for day-to-day operations but delegated most tasks to a city administrator. The job of running cities is an entire career field and while this may work in very small towns, it’s probably too much to ask here.
Our new form of government is a Council-Manager government where the Mayor is basically another City Councilman with the added responsibilities of presiding over Council meetings and certifying decisions made by council. He is also the head of city government for ceremonial purposes and is recognized by the governor for the purposes of military law. This change has allowed us to hire a professional City Manager with the power to run the day-to-day operations of the city.
The addition of a professional manager running our city is an extremely positive thing for a number of reasons but the most exciting thing is that our Mayor and Council are now free to do the fun stuff…the forward looking stuff…setting a vision for our community, setting goals, communicating these goals and measuring progress.
Here’s an idea…Wouldn’t it be great if each pair of city councilman held an annual neighborhood block party or town hall in their respective wards in order to collect ideas from their constituents? Wouldn’t it be cool if all of our councilmen, after collecting these ideas were to get together, boil this stuff down and come up with five or six ideas or projects that they could all get behind? Wouldn’t it be great to have a list of short, medium and long term projects or ideas that all of us understand are priorities for our community?
There’s the obvious stuff related to solving our problems related to water quantity, quality and distribution. There are economic expansion ideas out there, some large and some small. There’s several ideas out there related to our city reservoir ranging from simply solving problems related to a one hundred year old project to turning it into something special, the centerpiece of our community. I’ve even heard talk of revamping the entire area and turning it into a spectacular park complete with a splash pad, fountains in the center, paddle boats, waterside retail and restaurants, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities. Personally, I really like the idea of turning our Achilles heel into something remarkable. I don’t know if this stuff is feasible however I do know that anything is possible with leadership, clear vision and the determination of our leaders along with the backing and enthusiasm of our community.
It seems to me that the best way to get stuff done is for our local leaders to work together as a highly functioning team with the support of our community. I know many of our City Councilmen and our Mayor personally and I find them to be passionate about our city, hard working without compensation and selfless with their time and talents. Communication with our citizens is critical to achieving consensus and getting stuff done. I won’t pretend to have answers or even any good ideas but I believe that we are in a position right now to do some remarkable things that will allow our community to thrive for years to come.
Big plans come from big ideas. A lot of people are walking around, shopping, eating and enjoying themselves in Bricktown right now because of someone’s big idea. We did not run out of water during the most severe drought in recent history because of someone’s big idea. We’ve got a great team on the field right now and I for one would love to see someone swinging for the fence.