WESTLOCK – Westlock County has a freshly-minted strategic plan, a 12-page document that presents a unified voice from councillors on what needs to be done at the municipality for the remainder of their four-year term and lays out an “ideal future” and the direction needed to get there.
At their Feb. 28 regular meeting, councilors voted 6-0 (Coun. Francis Cloutier was absent) to accept the 2023-2026 strategic plan, a document that was first talked about in the fall following the hiring of new CAO Tony Kulbisky. Work on the plan, which was crafted solely with input from councilors and compiled by Strategic Steps at a cost of $16,250, plus GST, continued throughout the fall and winter — as it stands the plan is undergoing some minor tweaks before it’s published to the county website and social-media channels.
“I can honestly say that in the hall where we were at, all the walls were covered with paper. Every idea was captured, even if it was out in the left field it was still recorded and we’d circle back to it just to flush it out,” said Kulbisky during a follow-up interview. “Everyone had the opportunity to rank what they wanted to see in the plan. The Council was very much involved and had great discussions around all the points.”
Reeve Christine Wiese echoed those sentiments around the council table and said they’re pleased with the document which includes a revised vision statement that Westlock County is “A proud agricultural community of communities, rich in history, culture and growth opportunities” as well as a revised mission statement that reads: “Through rural roots and cultural connections, Westlock County provides a safe, vibrant community for everyone.”
“We’ve kind of combined what we all heard while out campaigning … (this document) focuses on a lot of the areas that are heard from our communities, so I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to see themselves in the document as these goals are representative of them as well,” said Wiese. “And reading through it, I see that we have the ball rolling on a lot of these things, so this isn’t something that’s just going to be sitting on the shelf.”
“A lot of work went into this strategic plan. Council did a really good. Administration did a really good job, and our CAO did a really good job and I’m really proud of this,” added Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson.
Deep dive on the doc
The document goes on to highlight four ‘pillars’ — “economic strength and viability,” “investing in our environment,” “welcoming community to all” and “effective leadership and organizational excellence” — which are areas of “major concentration” for council over the next three years.
Under those are 13 ‘goals’ and then numerous ‘tactics’ to achieve them and range from “bringing vitality to hamlets” to “increase business growth, retention and attraction” to working “with neighboring municipalities to drive regional growth and prosperity.” Other notable goals include developing a program to “guide road repair, maintenance and development” and to “increase interaction between the county and residents through community events.”
“It’s really important that people know that not only will the strategic plan guide us, but there are goals in here,” said Coun. Isaac Skuban who highlighted growing the industrial base, along with increased transparency for road maintenance as two of the more important ones. “I think residents are going to be really happy with this.”
Kulbisky said administration is now working on crafting a corporate business plan which “aligns to everything you’ve identified in your strategy plan” and provides “a measuring stick as to how effective we are.”
“And that’s kind of the exciting part because then you’ll start to see all the things coming forward that actually tie back to your strategic plan,” he explained. “And it’s a good way for reporting back to ratepayers how effective the council and administration are working together to get things done.
“The whole key is showing results, because if you can’t show results from a plan, then what’s the point of having one?”
George Blais, TownandCountryToday.com