A great deal of important, good work was done during the last two City of Merrill strategic planning sessions.
In my last update, I mentioned that city stakeholders prepared during the first planning meeting a framework for developing both city government and community vision statements.  During the second meeting in late-March, these statements were developed, something that has never been done in the past.
The proposed city government vision statement is “We, the employees and officials of the City of Merrill, envision superior services while being open, responsible, and transparent to the public.”  The vision statement for the community is “Merrill, embracing our diverse heritage while working toward a brighter future.”  Plans are to insert both statements in a resolution or resolutions so that they can formally be reviewed and voted on during regular Council or Committee of the Whole meetings.  Once passed either as is or with modifications, the statements will be posted in various places throughout city buildings, on the city website, and be communicated to the general public on a consistent basis.  Just as important, both will serve to provide context for future planning discussions.  Although neither statement will likely receive unanimous support from the public, both will help move Merrill toward an even more successful future.
In the third planning session, stakeholders completed what is called a SOAR analysis of city government.  SOAR stands for strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.  Some of the “strengths” of city government mentioned by group members were the excellent fire and police departments, dedicated and committed employees, and progressive leadership.  “Opportunities,” some which could in the end become areas of focus for city government in the coming years, included becoming more involved in regional initiatives and making more extensive use of social media to improve communication about what city government is doing.  “Aspirations” included residential reclamation in the heart of the city, having a nurturing environment for business development, and citizens who are better educated about how city government conducts business.  “Results,” or the expected outcomes of what city government does, included passing more ordinances to enhance residents’ quality of life, having a greener more eco-friendly community, and having a healthier population.   
Next steps in the process include creating a mission statement for city government and using the ideas mentioned so far to help the group determine the most critical strategic issues facing city government in the next few years.
As has been already mentioned in other articles, those participating in the planning process want the public to provide input in various ways.  You can send your comments directly to me at Arthur.lersch@ces.uwex.edu or come to the planning sessions.  The next is scheduled for May 7.  Session start at 5:30 in the City Hall Council Chambers. As with anything submitted via email, you have a choice on this form as to whether to provide your name.  Soon, you also will be able to submit comments online (more on that in the next article).