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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Strategic planning prep taking shape

(Dec. 11, 2014) Hoping to build on the “Coolest Small Town” momentum, the Berlin Mayor and Council approved a contract to allow Washington, D.C. based firm Christine Becker Associates to facilitate a series of strategic planning sessions, beginning next month.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the motion, granting Becker a maximum contract of $14,500 plus expenses, during a meeting on Monday, Dec. 8.
The town had earmarked $8,000 for the project in the fiscal year 2015 budget. Additional money will come from the contingency fund.
Mayor Gee Williams said the community-based meetings would run from mid-January through February 2015.
“In addition to the public meetings she will be meeting with the mayor and council initially to let us know how she is going about this, and then at the end she will present her findings to the mayor and council,” he said. “In a very organized way [she] will help us understand the priorities and the various options and considerations as we try and move forward with providing the citizens with the kind of community work over the next, particularly, three-to-five years.”
Town Administrator Laura Allen said the town sent requests for qualifications to between 15 and 20 different vendors. Berlin received three proposals and Allen, with Human Resources Director Jeffrey Fleetwood and Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen, vetted each bid before selecting Becker.
“Chris has the right combination of experience and enthusiasm to help facilitate our first strategic planning process,” Allen said. “Now that we’re cool, it’s time to talk about what’s next. I’m looking forward to hearing from the community and setting our priorities.”
Williams said he felt “very comfortable” with Becker.
“She seemed to have done her homework in terms of knowing Berlin,” he said. “I think we have a winner here.”
Becker, who spent most of her career in local government, recently facilitated strategic planning sessions for Greenbelt, Md., as well as the Maryland Municipal Association and the Maryland Local Government Insurance Trust.
“I’m familiar with local government and have had some experience working with municipalities in Maryland,” she said. “What we want to do [in Berlin] is focus on what’s important to the residents of Berlin as they think about the future of the town. It’s a very exciting small town and I think it’s a great time to be doing this kind of forward thinking.”
Becker said many small towns are looking to increase citizen involvement in government projects.
“I think in a smaller town you have a greater opportunity to connect directly with the people,” she said. “It engages people who live in the community in planning for its future, and I think it also creates an even stronger connection between the citizens and their government, which is always good for the future and the health of the community. The more connected government is with its citizens, the more transparent the process is [and] the more engaged people are in thinking about their future and feeling good about what’s happening in their community.”
The town has not announced a formal start date, although Becker said she is “working on the details” with Allen.
“Those [meetings] will be held in late January and February, and then we’ll wrap up with another strategic planning session with the council that looks at the information we’ve collected,” Becker said. “That will wrap up in March.”