Sikeston begins steps to formulate new strategic plan

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

SIKESTON, Mo. -- This week, the city of Sikeston and a cross-section of residents will begin gathering to lay the framework for the next 10 or so years.

"Every good organization needs a strategic plan," said Jim Schwaninger, one of the co-chairs for Sikeston Vision. "And Sikeston is at a point where it needs to renew its strategic plan."

Co-chairwoman Carolyn Harris added: "We need something to move forward. We want to come up with some ideas of how we can improve our community."

A steering committee for the process was appointed earlier this year by the city council. But the ideas, input, plans and more will be citizen-led, by what those involved in the process hope will represent a good cross-section of the public. The first gathering is planned for Thursday night.

"It will focus on what do we want for Sikeston," Schwaninger said.

"Over 350 local residents have received invitations," said Linda Lowes, director of governmental services for the city of Sikeston. "Each member of the committee was asked to come up with 20 or 30 people they considered to be leaders or free thinkers that can contribute to the process."

Lowes said those invited reflect different ethnic groups, economic levels, age groups, religions and educational levels in the community.

"We wanted to avoid the same people who show up at all the meetings," she said. "We want to be open to new ideas and new processes."

But if someone wasn't invited, they are still welcome to be a part of it -- all they have to do is contact city hall. A special e-mail address is also set up for residents' comments and suggestions.

All that involvement is important, Harris said. "Hopefully everybody will be happy with the end product because they had some input in it," she said. "I would encourage everyone who has been invited to come, because if you come and you can see what the program is all about and what the vision process is all about, you'll be more likely to buy into the finished product."

Schwaninger added that the committee is all about listening -- to those who come out there will be no real guides to the meeting or any preconceived idea.

"It will not be pre-directed by the city council or any other sector," he said. "Our intent is to get citizen input and some good brainstorming and thinking as far as where Sikeston wants to go in the future."

The committee will meet once or twice a month until January. Then, the information will be sent to the National Civic League, which is helping to facilitate the project. A report should be released around March, according to Lowes.

"It's a short-, mid- and long-term goal setting process," said Lowes. It will focus on developing some sort of plan for Sikeston for the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years.

Sikeston has gone through several similar processes in the past, said Schwaninger. Although neither he nor Harris were a part of them, they have participated in strategic planning for community organizations.

"We have seen it to be something very beneficial in [the organization] and I hope it will be the same with this," said Harris.

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