By County Manager Chris Coudriet
Does anyone remember a time before GPS? Back when traveling, especially to unfamiliar places, meant pulling out an oversized map from the glove compartment and hoping there were no roadblocks or detours between Point A and Point B. A fun, family road trip could quickly become a journey into the unknown with one wrong turn of the wheel.
It is truly amazing how things have changed.
Now, with a few taps on your phone, GPS offers turn-by-turn directions instantly, ensuring the needed path is easy to follow, even if there are times when alternate routes are necessary.
Consider the county’s Strategic Plan our community’s GPS. It’s our North Star, helping guide to a better future for New Hanover County – and we need your help plotting the journey.
When the Board of Commissioners worked to develop the county’s first Strategic Plan in 2012, the goal was straightforward. County business had always been conducted with the best interest of our citizens in mind, but often there wasn’t a way to determine if our work was making a significant or lasting impact on our community. Problems were addressed as they arose, but it was hard to differentiate between a short-term fix and long-term solution.
Our community needed a clear and measurable framework to state our vision and goals. This framework, which was set for a five-year timeline, was built to outline the objectives that would be prioritized to reach our goals so that initiatives and programs could be developed and better aligned. This puts the county in a proactive status rather than a reactive position.
Intelligent growth and economic development. Superior education and workforce. Superior public health and safety. These were identified by the board in 2012 as the three areas of focus for our strategic plan.
When the Strategic Plan was refreshed for 2018-23, the board identified new objectives under each of those overarching themes and the model of good governance was developed to help ensure our county staff had the guidance to serve our community in the most effective and efficient manner.
The list of accomplishments and met objectives since 2012 is incredible. You can see many of those in the report outs on our Strategy website. While we’ve seen great success, the journey is not over. And that is where you come in.
The new Strategic Plan that is being developed this year will set the course for how our county conducts business through 2028. Its development, led by our Board of Commissioners, will include county employees, community partners, and residents, like yourself, to make sure we are focused on the right priorities to embrace and support our people, our purpose, and our community’s growth.
So, to help us have the best information possible as we go through this process, our Office of Strategy has developed a community survey designed to gather information from you, our citizens, regarding your thoughts on the priorities and issues that should be prioritized as part of the next Strategic Plan. We encourage New Hanover County residents to take the survey here from now until Monday, March 6.
New Hanover County has a successful track record of listening to our community, as evidenced by our previous planning efforts, and I hope you take a few minutes to share what matters most to you. Your input will be provided directly to our Commissioners as part of the planning process.
Staff will also engage with stakeholders and community partners to gather additional feedback, while reviewing information provided by county departments to help inform upcoming planning sessions over the coming months. By June, we intend to position our Board of Commissioners to have a fully developed Strategic Plan to adopt.
Between now and then, there is a lot of work to be done and an abundance of information to be gathered and processed. We know how important this plan is to be continuing the positive trends we have seen across our community since the first Strategic Plan was developed more than a decade ago.
It will inform our budget – which, over 5 years, is estimated to be $2.5 billion. It will also directly influence the important work of the New Hanover Community Endowment, which is required to fund initiatives that support and further the county’s then-adopted strategic plan. That alone makes this process and plan important, to help ensure needed resources are deployed into our community for real and transformational change.
So please take the time to share your input and help us in designing the map that will guide New Hanover County into the future. This is a journey towards an even better community, one we look forward to taking together.
Residents can take the online survey here through March 6. Paper versions are also available at the Government Center, Senior Resource Center, Public Library locations, and Health and Human Services. Both online and paper surveys are available in English and Spanish.