By Zach Friend, County Supervisor 2nd District
There is no question that the Santa Cruz County of today is different than it was 30 years ago and we know that some elements will be different 30 years from now than they are today. How do we invest in the current and future needs of the county? Where can the County improve? Where should we focus our efforts?
The Board of Supervisors, working with Carlos Palacios our newly appointed County Administrative Officer, is working to answer these questions by initiating a countywide strategic planning effort in 2017-18. The strategic planning process, called “Vision Santa Cruz County,” will work with county staff and our community to establish a long-term vision for our county. Specifically, the plan will set a course of action through high-level overarching focus areas and then specific, actionable, goals and objectives to meet those focus areas.
There is always a concern that these types of plans will sit on the shelf and not be used. The Board of Supervisors has committed that this multi-year plan, and shorter term operational plan, will specifically be used to inform our budget development to ensure the community needs and goals outlined in plan are implemented.
What is the process for creating the plan?
The County began the process by comparing existing models and formats in other counties and cities, reviewing community and department plans, and receiving input on strategic plan development from other communities that have gone through the process.
Moving forward, the County will work with county staff, the Board of Supervisors and the community (including at upcoming community meetings throughout the county this Fall) to set the focus areas and goals of the plan. Additionally, the ability to provide input online has already been established (the link is at the bottom of this article).
From a timeline perspective, outreach and engagement will occur throughout the fall, with a presentation of the draft vision, mission, values and focus areas to the Board of Supervisors in the winter, formal goal setting in the spring, and then draft and final County Strategic Plan by the end of 2018.
Why is a strategic plan helpful?
Working with the community to identify our community’s strategic direction will prioritize use of limited resources, set expectations and measurable objectives, help cope with environmental uncertainty and change, and provide an objective basis for programmatic and policy evaluation that currently does not fully exist.
One thing that I think is an important component of a strategic plan is working toward a performance measurement effort. Put simply, having a tool to support data-driven decision-making and inform the budget process. Are our investments working? Should programs be reformed or improved? How do we best invest in improved outcomes?
One path we’ve discussed at the Board of Supervisors is a two-year budget combined with a two-year operational plan to carry out the County’s strategic plan goals. The first two-year budget and operational plan would provide the County with a work plan of measurable objectives and action steps to meet these objectives.
The second two-year budget and operational plan would implement performance measures, which would allow the community (and Board of Supervisors) to truly measure the efficacy of our programs and approaches. The strategic plan would be a first step in this process.
Your input is critical! Please sign up for updates on the strategic planning process at www.santacruzcounty.us/sp or email the County with questions or comments at email@example.com. Additionally, you can sign up for updates using the County’s free Citizen Connect mobile app.
As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Please feel free to call me at 454-2200.