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Town Council defines the town’s “main thing”

Council members begin long-term strategic planning process.

June 6, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The mission statement of an organization defines why it exists.

But when Lorna Kibbey, a facilitator for strategic planning with Leadership Solutions, searched for the Town of Fort Myers Beach's mission statement, it was hard to find.

And what she did find was never actually adopted, according to Vice Mayor Tracey Gore.

Article Photos

Town Council members brainstorm about the council and town’s strengths, opportunities, threats and challenges during the strategic planning session with facilitator Lorna Kibbey.

So the town council's first order of business during its long-term, strategic planning session was to settle on the town's "main thing," a statement all five could support.

Kibbey facilitated the Mound House's strategic plan in November, a meeting with all the site's stakeholders to define and explore the future of the Mound House. Town Council hired Kibbey to do a similar process for the town: to help facilitate discussion about the town's future at Monday's session.

Kibbey's first goal was to pin down this "main thing" for both the town and the town council - a statement that would apply no matter who was sitting behind the dais tomorrow or 10 years from now. She told the council members to think of it as, if someone came up and asked what the Town of Fort Myers Beach is, this statement would come to mind.

"Your mission, when done well, never changes. It's the core, why you exist," she said. "Whoever is in the seat at the time should be able to buy into that mission."

The "main thing" isn't necessarily the mission statement, Kibbey said, but that can help write the mission statement.

Council members and Town Manager Roger Hernstadt broke out into two-person groups multiple times to narrow down these two statements. It took some discussion, and parsing out of each word's meaning, but finally, a mission statement was chosen.

For the Town of Fort Myers Beach: "A unique and vibrant island beach community."

For the Town Council: "Govern responsibly to ensure a unique and vibrant island beach community."

"I feel good about this," Gore said.

But reaching that point took several discussions about the words themselves. Gore wanted family-friendly included; Council Member Bruce Butcher wasn't a fan of "unique."

"Family means something different to different people," Council Member Anita Cereceda said.

Mayor Dennis Boback said the community itself was a family, so the word community could encompass the family-friendly atmosphere on the island.

Butcher said the word unique was in fact not unique.

"Marathon is unique to Key West," he said. "Unique is not a differentiation. It's not a competitive advantage."

In the name of team playing, Butcher and Gore set aside their reservations, conceding that the agreed-upon main thing was a good statement and could fit the town and town council.

These two statements are not necessarily the town's new mission statements - rather, they are guiding statements the council used throughout the planning session and will use for future sessions to keep their ideas and thoughts connected to one central agreed-upon message. Kibbey said sometimes in the organizations she helps with this strategic planning will sometimes adopt the "main thing" as their mission statement, or it will become the basis for a more elaborated mission statement.

The next step in Kibbey's process was for the council to identify a list of ways in which the town would be successful in achieving its "main thing" statement. The council members rounded up a list. Here are a few.

"The town council will be successful if:

We maintain a strong financial position and manage our resources responsibly.

Provide a world-class service based on an effective use of feedback from out community.

Manage change to preserve our quality of life."

Council members also discussed the council and town's strengths, opportunities, threats and challenges, comparing them to a list made several years ago during a community visioning effort.

"What we want to do is get something on the books that leads back to what we defined as your main thing," Kibbey said. "It all connects."

Monday's session was only the first chapter of the council's long-range planning; Kibbey will take the information collected today and combine it into cohesive thoughts for the council members to consider for the next session on June 20.

She tasked them with food for thought before then, too.

"Think about where are we and why and what's next," Kibbey said.



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