Council explores its ‘core purpose’
- By DANELLE KELLY Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan City Council held a special work session before its regular Thursday meeting in preparation for an afternoon-long work session planned for March 25.
Leading the meeting online via WebEx was performance coach Brad Hofmann of Head First LLC, who was hired by the city to guide city staff and Council members as they map out goals and identify a core purpose and best practices under new City Manager Delilah Walsh.
As he opened his presentation, Hofmann outlined why the planning process is critical.
“Having these things formally defined and clear to everyone really allows an organization to be proactive and intentional in their course of action rather than reactive,” Hofmann said.
He added that identifying an organization’s core ideology and vision also “provides touchstones that help the organization to be consistent and focused in terms of making important decisions.”
Pinpointing an organization’s core ideology gives a good sense of where it stands at the time, allowing it to map a path forward, Hofmann noted. Using the best practice of collaboration can help organizations to hone in on core ideology and vision more efficiently as well.
Core ideology, he said, is “really what exactly you do and who you are.”
He then defined the “core purpose” of an organization as what it does — why does an organization exist? A core purpose statement is similar to a mission statement, he explained, but is shorter and more inspirational — a key motivator and unifying factor.
Hofmann then, as an initial exercise to identify the Council's core purpose, asked the council members to consider what would happen to the city and its citizens if the Council ceased to exist.
Council Member Lallette Kistler answered that, “The city manager would be much stronger.”
Ketchikan City Mayor Dave Kiffer postulated that the city would still function, but that in the long term the connection would be lost between community members and the city government.
City Manager Walsh agreed, saying that without the Council, the city administration would simply become a task-driven body. The Council, she said, has an important role in making Ketchikan grow and thrive through long-term vision and planning.
Council Member Jai Mahtani said that an elected body is important to having checks and balances in governmental decisions and budget-making.
Council Member Abby Bradberry said that without the Council, the city could become stagnant, with little development and “no movement within the city, no expansion.”
Hofmann then led Council members through considering their shared values — what they stand for.
He defined values as “basically, principles or standards of behavior, and their judgment of what’s important.”
Identifying shared values helps members of an organization discern between right from wrong, and make decisions accordingly, and can be a “tremendous tool for aligning organizations,” Hofmann said.
He added that shared values are foundational, and guide many aspects of running a municipality including budget prioritization, strategy, processes, hiring and service delivery.
Hofmann then displayed a slide with a Venn diagram with a circle labeled “values as city leaders,” a circle labeled “values of community and employees,” and a circle labeled “values that lead to success in city government.” He explained that the goal is to identify values that can fit into the center of the diagram, spanning all three values areas.
“Shared values can be a driving force in your organization,” Hofmann said. “When they’re done well, they’re straightforward and clear to everyone in the city government so everyone can tell you what they are, and people are really using them. At their best, they drive vital leader and employee behavior.”
Council Member Riley Gass asked how common ground would be found among a diverse group of people who each hold differing values.
Hofmann answered that the approach would be for each Council member to identify their own professional values they bring to the body, then to identify as a group, the common ground among those values.
He then invited Council members to share their professional values in relation to their service as elected officials.
Council Member Mark Flora noted equal representation of all the people whom they serve. Council Member Bradberry mentioned accountability and an inclusivity, Council Member Mahtani mentioned transparency, and Council Member Kistler mentioned respect for different cultures and appreciation for the arts as important values.
Council Member Jack Finnegan described what he saw as the core values of Ketchikan residents.
“There’s a pretty strong, even stubborn resilience amongst the people here,” he said, “especially in the face of the rather unusual elements of this community being remote, being isolated, having pretty dramatic weather, and having had a pretty dynamic shift over the course of its existence. I think there’s a very strong pride of place for many, if not most of the people who live in Ketchikan and I think there’s a real pronounced sense of connection to this extraordinary ecosystem that we call home.”
Gass mentioned the value of self-reliance as a strong thread in the Ketchikan community, and Flora added that independence — finding ways to get things done — is an asset common to many locals.
Council Member Janalee Gage mentioned that Ketchikan was built on community members’ support for each other and willingness to volunteer for many roles. Finnegan built on that idea by saying a common thread in town is that people are multi-faceted and are willing to “wear multiple hats.”
Bradberry said that locals are close-knit and very service-oriented.
Mahtani added that as a Council member, he felt it is important to be all-inclusive, approachable and available to community members. Kiffer said that serving on a governmental body in Ketchikan puts members in a “front-line” role, where they are approached by community members wherever they go.
Hofmann then brought up the importance of identifying a long-term goal that can unify a decision-making body. A good long-term goal, he said, needs to be measurable, inspiring, something that everyone can support, that addresses the most important problems and stressors, is broad enough to apply to everyone in the organization and is achievable, but not a given.
A question he posed to the Council for further thought was, “if I had a magic wand and could make all the City’s problems and stressors disappear, what would that look like in kind of a perfect-world scenario?”
Flora said that a succession plan for employees to ascend in their job positions would be set, so that when division and department heads retire or resign, there are trained employees ready to step in. Mahtani said that new streams of revenue would be found to allow the city to balance its budget and “pay for everything.”
Bradberry echoed Mahtani when she said that she would wish for balanced finances to keep the cost of living as low as possible for residents and encourage them to stay in Ketchikan. Kistler said she would want a way to make it easier for lower-income families to live in town.
Gage and Mahtani said they would want increased affordable and accessible housing to be more available to Ketchikan residents. Kiffer said that improving the local economy to allow local youth to stay in town and succeed would be beneficial, and Gage added that creating training programs for youth also would help.
Bradberry added that finding ways to diversify the economy would be on her wish list, as would finding ways to increase the community’s safety. Mahtani said that reviving the logging and fishing industries would be excellent, as would creating systems that would encourage input from all industries.
Finnegan said that building “robust services to address issues pertaining to mental health and addiction needs” would be beneficial.
Flora added that working to establish a modern and reliable infrastructure would be on his wishlist, and Gage agreed, adding that the ability to better pay for water, sewer and trash utilities also would be good.
Identifying those wishlist items is important in creating a long-term vision, Hofmann said.
He then focused on how the Council can work toward gelling those values and goals to create a core ideology and vision for the entire body using collaboration.
In a slide that Hofmann displayed titled “Looking for Win/Win Scenarios,” there was listed the key actions that group members can take to best collaborate.
“They listen carefully to learn about other perspectives, interests and needs,” the first step noted, and the next points were, “They brainstorm various solutions that may meet multiple needs,” and “They place value on other people’s needs, not just their own.”
Collaboration will allow Council members to achieve a “win-win” unified vision, Hofmann said.
“That’s what we’re going to be shooting for as we work on core ideology and vision,” he said.
Walsh described Thursday’s work session as a preparatory opportunity to set the stage for the full work session planned for March 25, and to allow Council members to “hit the ground running” during that meeting.