OC Selects Firm To Conduct Planning Initiative

OCEAN CITY – A Strategic Planning Initiative, a priority stated by City Manager David Recor before he even moved to Ocean City this summer, took a step forward at this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, but it’s not expected to include the elected officials until after the November election.

Most recently the city manager of Fort Pierce, Fla., Recor joined the Town of Ocean City in June and his idea to engage city staff and the Mayor and City Council in a Strategic Planning Initiative that would guide the city in the years to come helped carry him through the hiring process.

“As you may recall, this was one of the initiatives I had initially advocated for and thought that it was important in building consensus and developing a vision for the town,” Recor said on Tuesday afternoon during the Mayor and City Council’s work session.

According to Recor, a Strategic Planning Initiative is a highly collaborative and transparent process that will result in a vision statement with defined, value-based principles that describe the preferred future for the town with a 15-year planning horizon.

A mission statement will also be developed that defines what should be the primary purposes of the town including operating guidelines and service priorities, as well as four to six goals with measureable objectives will also be identified, which then become major focus areas for the town.

According to Recor, a five-year plan connects these elements to realize the vision, to enhance the mission and to achieve the goals with an analysis of major challenges and opportunities. The plan will also identify an Action Agenda for 2012-2013 including a prioritized policy agenda and prioritized management agenda.

“What I am asking the council to do is allow the prep work to begin with the staff and in terms of the background work, the interviews and then have the actual strategic planning workshop scheduled for after the election when a new council is seated,” Recor requested.

Recor suggested having Lyle Sumek Associates, Inc., a nationwide strategic planning firm specializing in local government, including resort and tourism-based communities, carry out the initiative.

Recor submitted that the firm emphasizes the importance of institutionalizing the strategic planning process into the town’s governance, management and service delivery. This results in strong financial management, cost effective service delivery, investment in infrastructure and support for a strong local economy. The strategic planning process adds value to the both residents’ and visitors’ lives alike and supports a climate where local businesses can be successful and thrive.

According to Lyle Sumek, he has worked with a number of resort communities over the years as close to Ocean City as Virginia Beach. He has worked with Recor in Hilton Head Island, S.C.., and Fort Pierce, Fla. Issues that have come out of working with resort communities have been beach replenishment, dredging with spoils, relationship to hotels and lodging businesses resident versus guest benefits, high fuel costs and automobile travel for vacations and off-season activities to expand tourism.

“It was one of the things that was brought up in the hiring process that I felt he would be bring to the table,” Councilman Joe Hall said in making a motion to move the plan forward. “I feel it would be an excellent process for the town in bringing clarity to a lot of our taxpayers as it is fully developed.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed with the plan but questioned whether the initiative needed to head downt the Request For Proposal (RFP) path rather than sole source and in turn Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned whether the plan could be done in-house.

Recor responded that due to the Strategic Planning Initiative’s specialized nature and having the experience with Lyle Sumek Associates his recommendation was to work with the company.

“I have great confidence in City Manager Recor that he has experience here, and I think this was one of the things that we prioritized as an issue during discussions when we were looking to hire a new city manager,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “He was deliberate and upfront about what his goals would be and his delivery and experience he had in achieving those goals, so in this case I would think we would want to take his recommendation and allow Mr. Recor to start his term here as city manager moving forward as one of his number one initiatives so I would approve his recommendation.”

The council agreed with the mayor a voted unanimously to move forward with Recor’s Strategic Planning Initiative.