Retreat refocuses council on issues

POULSBO — While Saturday’s windstorm raged outside, city council members and Mayor Kathryn Quade were relatively calm as they huddled inside the Poulsbo Fire Station to set priorities for the upcoming year.

“It went very well and it really focused us on measurable tasks,” Quade said, noting that facilitator Lyle Sumek helped the group look at all the possibilities for the future and rank them.

“I believe it’s a good start and it’s certainly a more well-defined process,” Quade said. “This is not a one-shot deal and I think it’s got to be done at least annually.”

Councilman Mike Regis said he was impressed with what Sumek brought to the retreat as he conducted phone interviews with both council members and city staff beforehand.

“It gave him a good point of reference and he was able to show commonalities,” Regis said. “We all click on some of the same issues.”

The retreat centered on six elements that were ranked by the council and mayor: Poulsbo, a sustainable city; unique, quaint downtown and waterfront; improved mobility and connectivity; livable city with a great quality of life; upgrading city infrastructure and facilities; and engaged citizens and community.

“It showed us where we are strong and where we would want to put emphasis,” Regis said.

Three components were common to each of the six elements: goals, action and what does it means to citizens, he added.

“The whole point was to focus on the core issues and not get distracted by all the other things coming at us,” Regis said, explaining that the council was able to smooth things out and enhance its team mentality. “This is probably the (retreat) that made the most sense and got the most accomplished.”

For Councilman Ed Stern, the retreat brought the entire council onboard with the idea that, after the city budget, long-range planning is its next highest priority.

“Throughout the city’s entire history, long-range planning has been hit or miss with councils and there’s never been a council with this much pressure in a city with unprecedented growth,” Stern said.

In the past, councils and mayors only conducted long-range planning that was mandated by the state’s Growth Management Act, but that attitude is changing, he said.

“The next big step is the visioning part of the long-range planning goals,” he said. “Instead of being city hall driven, it needs to be citizen driven.”

The process should give citizens a blank slate for their ideas, which can be translated into the framework of the long-range planning goals developed at the council retreat, he said.

“This gives us a way to put into context instead of not knowing what to do with it,” Stern said.

One of the keys to rejuvenating the visioning process, which started last June, will be the selection of a facilitator, he said.

“I was very impressed with Lyle Sumek and think he would be the right person,” Stern said.

However, that decision will be made by the full council with a recommendation from the city’s long-range planning committee, he said.

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