Great communities start with a great vision.
Mayors and other officials are elected, in part, on the strength of their vision for a city, town, or county.
For that vision to be whole, however, it must incorporate the goals, hopes, and needs of all members of the community.
Sometimes the vision involves clear goals –
- giving a community clean water for the first time in years (Kenai, AK)
- improving local infrastructure (Burley, ID)
- transforming derelict buildings into affordable housing (Beloit, WI)
- solving quality of life issues (Central City, NE)
Other times, however, the benefits of working together are more ambiguous and long term. Diverse groups must collectively determine what kind of community they want to create, what it will feel like, and whether their shared vision is economically feasible.
Managers start the conversation
Groups with diverse interests may have a similar idea and would want to work together if they knew how or where to start. They may lack a common frame of reference and language.
Residents may not know how to interact with what they see as their community’s power structure.
This is where professional managers can play an invaluable role. Because they are nonpartisan, their goal is to achieve what will be best for the entire community. Because they are nonpolitical, they are not committed to any single interest or solution.
Managers can create a process in which all parties can engage in constructive dialogue and negotiation. They can start the conversation and keep it going when things get tough.
As nonpolitical professionals, managers look at the larger picture, balancing the interests of diverse community members and immediate versus long-range needs.
Last, managers are committed to seeing a project through long-term, from conception to completion, sometimes receiving it from their predecessors or passing it to their successors.