City leaders plan for Spencer’s future
In December, city leaders met for a long-term planning session. The session — attended by council members, city staff and the mayor — outlined strategic focus areas and priorities for the city’s next three to five years. City Manager Amanda Mack and Spencer Mayor Kevin Robinson shared the different areas of focus gained from the meeting and how expectations and actions will align in order to attain the city leaders’ goals.
“It was a goal planning session for everybody, so the staff did their part and then the elected officials did their part,” Robinson said. “It’s a combined, citywide focus. It’s hard to accomplish goals if we don’t have strategic alignment of where the focus and effort needs to occur in a calendar year.”
For strategic focus areas, the session listed economic development, code enforcement and parks and recreation tied for first place with infrastructure and diversity tied for third in a tiered list of the issues most important in the next three to five years.
“I think it’s pretty telling that these areas that were identified, three of them really were right at the top, and the other two that we identified also had really strong support from the council,” Mack said. “So the difficult part of this is we know that everything can’t be a priority all the time right? So this document is pretty expansive, there’s a lot of information, a lot of big thinking going on. (I want) to bring the department heads in and set specific goals. ... My plan is to have that done with the council and the staff by kind of mid to late April so we kind of have our marching orders and have a better idea of how we’re going to accomplish this stuff.”
Mack shared some general oversight into what community members can expect to see in the areas of economic development and parks and recreation in Spencer’s future.
“I’d be looking for a different, probably more aggressive approach to economic development in terms of the city playing a more active role in recruitment; both in the retail, commercial and industrial front,” Mack said. “I want to be clear that’s not taking over what the corridor does, what the chamber does, what Main Street does, but maybe it’s increasing funding or (during the next council meeting) we are going to move forward with a partnership with Buxton which does retail recruitment. I think that’s a really good place to start. We have to figure out what we can support as a community and then go after it.
“I’d also be looking for probably a more comprehensive parks planning. We have a document that’s kind of in place but really need to take a look at that and figure out what needs to be finished in that parks plan and maybe revamp it. ... People get excited about that because it’s visual and has an immediate impact on the community and (there are) really some fun things we can do both in our parks but on the recreation side.”
Robinson and Mack said riverfront development will be an important element going forward.
“As mayor I’m looking forward to the further discussions about how the riverfront area is developed and utilized,” Robinson said.
“(Riverfront development) is going to be taken out of this plan and a strategic work plan for the riverfront development is going to be created,” Mack said. “Because not only is it a priority for the council it’s a priority for the community.”
Regarding code enforcement, Mack said the city will be more precise about what is considered a code violation and what is not.
“I think what we need to do a better job of as the city, is really letting citizens know what actually is a violation and what isn’t,” Mack said. “Just because you keep your property a certain way doesn’t mean that your neighbor is going to and doesn’t necessarily mean they’re violating the law. Being clear, but also there are some areas we need to focus a little more attention on.”
For infrastructure, Robinson pointed to the next phase of the storm sewer project as a positive for the community going into the future, with Mack noting much of the future for infrastructure would mainly be continuing to build off of strides made each year.
“I think we do a good job of being on top of our infrastructure needs, so I don’t anticipate any exorbitant projects in the next couple years other than continuing to upgrade and maintain,” Mack said.
“As a city we are excited to move closer to finishing the storm sewer and rain water separation,” Robinson said. “That’s a huge project so the continuation of that project is certainly a priority for the year that everyone is in alignment with. We’re excited as a leadership team that we received another CDBG grant which allows us not to have to assess those homeowners for the next phase of the project.”
On the topic of diversity in the community, Mack said the group of city leaders are making a greater effort to embrace diversity and give minority communities in Spencer a voice.
“I think that’s a hard topic to put a definition on but we know as a community we probably need to do a better job of embracing diversity and encouraging that in our community, but it also can start within,” Mack said. “So when we make hires for positions are we looking at diversifying our existing workforce? We lead by example. Is it really making an effort to get council members and city staff out into some of our minority populations and just doing meet and greets or coffees? Or going to where the people are at and listening to what their needs and desires are for the community? I think it’s a good first step and then beyond that how you implement that is going to be important.”
As Mack prepares to more specifically define goals for the many departments of the city, she noted her open-door policy and encouraged community members to participate in Spencer’s future as the city takes its first steps toward its future.
“I think there’s a ton of opportunity for community members to be engaged with the city as we move forward with some of these initiatives,” Mack said. “Stay tuned, there’s big things coming.”