Commissioners pledged to begin working on those goals, and to hear reports on their progress on a quarterly basis. The top three goals were narrowed from seven topics during more than five hours of discussions.
Thirteen of Washington County’s 15 commissioners attended the workshop, which was held at East Tennessee State University’s Valleybrook Campus in Kingsport. Commissioner Jodi Jones — who helped to organize the workshop — said many of the costs for the food and other expenses were donated. As as a result, she said Washington County spent just $136 to hold the work session.
Consultants Pat Hardy, from the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Assistance Service, and Rick Hall, of UT’s County Technical Assistance Service, served as facilitators for the workshop. Hardy urged commissioners to set “attainable” goals for strategic planning. He said such planning “provides a blueprint” for staffers, while “assisting in the decision-making process” and promoting “proactive” management.
“The point is you have to think outside of the box,” he told commissioners.
The goals set by by commissioners on Saturday included:
• To effectively communicate both internally and externally. Commissioner Jim Wheeler said a task force should be formed to include commissioners and the county mayor to better communications between themselves, county residents and other officeholders.
• Develop a comprehensive infrastructure, specifically to supply drinking water and firefighting services. Commissioner Robbie Tester said because of the amount of funding needed to build such a infrastructure, it could take 30 years or more to realize that goal.
• Improvement of the county’s workforce development, including the areas of education, personal health and work skills. Commissioner Gary McAllister said bringing an accredited technical center to Washington County should be a priority.
Before settling on their top goals, commissioners discussed some of the things Washington County residents are saying about their county government. Commissioner Freddie Malone said he was amazed by the number Johnson City residents who “do not realize they are part of the county, and can participate in its government.”
Jones said there was a distinct difference in how some residents view their county government.
“It depends on where they live,” she said.
Commissioner Kent Harris agreed, noting there was a “real divide” between urban and rural residents.
“It’d be nice to move away from that divide,” Harris said.