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Ocean City

Strategic planning sets course for community

One of the bright spots in city government, given all the political shenanigans going into the Nov. 6 elections, is that no matter who is elected to the council, its members will be operating according to a well-defined strategic plan.

The process of developing what amounts to a 300-some page navigational chart for elected officials began this week. City Manager David Recor and consultant Lyle Sumek sat down with the mayor and current council members (any new members to the council will be interviewed also) to determine what they think Ocean City needs to be in the years ahead.

Sumek, a former academic with a doctorate in public administration, has been helping communities, large and small, set courses toward success for the past 33 years. The key to his approach is that officials, the citizenry and business people must define for themselves exactly what success is.

The modus operandi of Lyle Sumek Associates, which operates out of Florida, is to find the common ground between all participants, regardless of their personal philosophies, and then show them how to build an achievable plan on that common ground. The plan comes loaded with benchmarks so the public can follow along.

Just as a comprehensive zoning plan establishes objectives for the physical development of a jurisdiction by saying what should go where, a strategic plan sets out how every policy decision officials must make should be considered in the context of the overall direction that everyone has agreed to go.

If something doesn’t fit that scenario, the council has two choices: it can elect not to do it or adjust the plan to accommodate it.

Ocean City government has, of course, been through strategic planning before. But the approach being employed by Sumek and Recor is to make this effort a community project, rather than strictly a government exercise.

Certainly, local politicians, business people and residents disagree on many things these days, but as Sumek and Recor have already discovered, all sides in this discussion agree on more than they realize. Where they part ways is on how to achieve many of the same objectives.

That’s what this plan is about: finding out what people want, forging an agreement and then establishing the means to get it. It’s a good move that everyone should support.

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