By Shelby Rognstad
It’s an honor to be working with such a team of professionals at the city of Sandpoint. The level of commitment to the job, to our collective vision and to the success of every member of the city’s team is inspiring. These past couple years have been really hard on our community both near and far. I hope that we can all do our best to treat city staff with the grace and kindness they well deserve.
Recently there has been some public criticism of city staff. There are many assumptions being made about turnover that has happened at the city. Turnover is rampant everywhere right now given the impacts of the pandemic. Across sectors employers are struggling to find the workers they need. Changing economic factors, cost of housing, risks of COVID, masking and vaccine protocols (or lack thereof) are a few contributing factors. The public sector is hit the hardest because wages are typically not as high as in the private sector.
There have also been profound changes in the organization over the past six years. In 2016, the city hired its first city administrator. As mayor, I delegated many of the administrative duties to that position. These duties were formerly the role of mayor, department heads or were not really done at all. The administrator position was created to ensure a stable and professional level of public service and administrative integration that would last through changes in elected officials and retirements that were imminent among key leadership staff. Our administrator has proven exceptional in accomplishing these objectives and fulfilling the demands of her role. She has brought together a team of motivated, collaborative professionals that have taken city leadership to a new level of performance.
The city completed its first ever strategic plan in 2018. The City Council has been unified in its desire to create a common vision and drive our collective efforts toward that vision to improve our service delivery. This was an ambitious effort that required not just the participation and involvement of the elected officials, but the staff and public as well.
What followed was the most comprehensive master planning effort in the city’s history and an implementation program that was new, dynamic and all encompassing. It required the city to do things differently that it had always done to improve systems and processes and to work collaboratively in new ways.
These were big changes that we knew wouldn’t be an easy transition for everyone. When is change ever easy? The elected body, the leadership team and the community all agreed, and agree to this day, that this was the best path forward for our city to be well prepared for the growth and opportunities ahead.
Implementing this strategic plan, city leadership has been committed to effective service integration, data driven decision making and performance based management. This demands a high level of teamwork, accountability and adaptability. Not every employee was able to make it through this transition, but those who have are talented, committed staff that embody all of these qualities. These high standards of performance and integration are now the norm at City Hall, from the top leadership positions down to our frontline staff.
I’m very proud of the city’s leadership team and all staff that have faced the challenges that come with change, leaned in and excelled. The city has never been in better hands.
Shelby Rognstad is mayor of the city of Sandpoint.
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