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County Staff Explore Vision For The Future At Annual Workshop

BASS LAKE — Last week, the County of Madera hosted its two-day Management Workshop in Bass Lake, Calif., which was titled, “United into the Future.”

The annual workshop, held this year on Apr. 5 and 6, gives County staff a chance to share the challenges and successes of the past year, and plan the way forward in providing better service and being responsive to the needs of residents.

“This is a unique opportunity for the staff and supervisors,” says District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler. “It’s an important investment in training and team building, and the one time of the year where all the supervisors can get together and talk about a community vision for the county.

“For the staff, it gets them out of their normal routine where they’re so busy doing their jobs, and into a different space where they can brainstorm with staff from other departments and find common ground and starting points for paving the way into the new year, and the years to come.”

In regular meetings, the Board of Supervisors must stick to the agenda items, says Wheeler.

“This workshop gives the team a chance to bring new supervisors up to speed — there have been three new members of the board in the last three years — and define their priorities and goals for the future.”

On day one, two simultaneous workshops took place. The first was a special Board Meeting where facilitator, Bill Chiat, Dean of California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Institute for Excellence in County Government, unpacked several ideas from the County Board of Supervisors regarding county efficiencies, future visions, and community engagement tactics.

The second was a Management Team Workshop, which focused on achieving County and department goals through people.

This was the third consecutive year this workshop has been held, and it provides a once-a-year opportunity for off-site discussions to occur between departments to identify challenges, gaps and opportunities while conducting creative brainstorming sessions.

The Board of Supervisors, along with the few members of the public who participated, had high-level discussions around the future of the County of Madera. Specifically Chiat asked each district supervisor to share their vision on what the County of Madera would ideally look like in 2047, and how the decisions made today create the conditions of tomorrow.

The management team heard from speaker Dr. Robert Watts, founder and president of Watts and Associates, who has 25 years experience as a consultant, executive coach, and university professor. Watts focused on staff and organizational development, leveraging employee potential, and taking a united approach to meeting County goals and constituent needs.

The day concluded with a dinner, allowing for productive conversations and team building to continue.

Some conversations that took place include but are not limited to;

  • How to make the most out of limited funding resources and make difficult decisions to prioritize funding in line with community goals and within local government restraints
  • Meaningfully develop attractive and culturally appropriate communities for constituents and tourists alike to prosper in a socially responsible way
  • Develop projects that consider local economic benefits, natural resource conservation and program efficiencies
  • How to elevate current initiatives to encourage healthy and prosperous communities which balance open space, rural appeal and family wage jobs
  • How to better engage the community, increase transparency and enhance community-county conversations on a regular basis while obtaining meaningful input from the public

Day two started with speaker Kerry Shearer, who provided basic tools for effective public outreach including social media. Next, Chiat led a discussion tying together discussions from the previous day’s workshops.

The Board of Supervisors, department heads and key leadership staff briefly reviewed successes before shifting the conversation to the very real gaps that exists and how to meaningfully bridge those gaps.

Successes included the Sustainable Ground Water Act compliance, the youthful offender fire starter program, improved auditor reporting, the countywide rate study for all special districts, and a variety of grant awards and state recognitions.

County gaps included county roads and infrastructure improvement needs, lack of public safety personnel, and the need to increase community engagement.

A variety of other challenges and opportunities were discussed, many of which included laws and regulations that start at the federal and state level and cause fiscal and administrative challenges for local government.

“The workshop is a great opportunity to enhance productivity while working towards a culture of excellence,” said Eric Fleming, County Administration Officer.
Max Rodriguez, 2017 Board of Supervisors chairman, called the workshop “uplifting and constructive,” while Building Maintenance Supervisor Raymond Huerta — a first-time workshop attendee — also expressed confidence in the direction the County is headed.

“In my 25 years of working for the County I can truly say that we are turning a corner,” said Huerta. “There are positive things ahead for us!”

“These discussions are an important step in rebuilding trust with constituents, finding new ways to become more user friendly, and doing self-reflection,” says District 5 Chief of Staff Brittany Dyer. “With County staff generally swamped with regular work, these types of discussions — away from the office environment — are very constructive and result in people being really excited and passionate about their jobs.”

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