Vision for the future

Oconto County Board works on guidance for future planning

Warren Bluhm,

Dale Mohr of the University of Wisconsin-Extension talks to the Oconto County Board on Thursday about the process of developing a vision statement for the county. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

Members of the Oconto County Board were given a homework assignment this week.

The board has been going through a goals and objectives exercise facilitated by Dale Mohr, the natural resources and economic development agent in Oconto County’s University of Wisconsin-Extension office, to help guide the county’s long-term planning process.

The effort included whittling down supervisors’ core values last summer; the five attributes the board considered most important were accountability, honesty, respectfulness, trustworthiness and dedication.

The next step is to develop a vision statement, described as a “positive, inspirational description of what an organization would like to become or to achieve.”

It takes time to achieve, so plan for 5-10 years out, Mohr said Thursday.

“I don’t think anyone has ever gone on a vacation not knowing where they wanted to go,” Mohr told the board. “As an organization we may have individual ideas or competing ideas on where we want to go as a county.”

The homework assignment is to think of all the elements the county government could address, then make a list of as many challenges or concerns they have after each key element (families, staff, roads, budgets, natural environment, housing, etc).

Supervisors are being asked to “turn the challenges around” so they can be described in a positive statement.

For example, if caring for families is a function of county government, the challenge could be that some families are choosing to leave or unable to stay here, he said. The problem could be “turned around” with the positive vision statement, “Families will choose to stay and be able to stay.”

“Don’t worry about the how,” Mohr said. “The ‘how’ is going to be in mission statements, the how is going to be in the mission statements of committees, but the vision that you have of the county is that we want families to locate here but we also want them to thrive.”

A broader example of how vision statements work is President John F. Kennedy’s challenge, while the country was caught up in a “space race” with the Soviet Union, that the U.S. would send astronauts to the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade of the 1960s, he said.

“It was inspirational; it let everybody know from the custodians on up to an astronaut about what their focus was going to be, and it also let our adversaries as well as our allies what we’re focusing on,” Mohr said.

He asked supervisors to return their thoughts by Feb. 15. The process will help identify individual visions and long-term objectives that the county can use not only in its planning process but in applying for state and federal grants and other funding efforts, he said.

“It’s a lot easier when you put together a grant statement if you can put the county’s vision on it,” Mohr said. “It’s a lot easier for a committee to write a grant if you know what it’s going to be used for.”