MY VIEW - Vincent S. Long, Leon County Administrator: "Leon County Seeking Citizens for Meaningful Relationship"

By: Vince Long
By: Vince Long

The foundation for everything we do in Leon County government is the long held belief that when we include citizens, we make better decisions and have a greater positive impact on our community.

MY VIEW
Leon County Seeking Citizens for Meaningful Relationship
Vincent S. Long, Leon County Administrator

The foundation for everything we do in Leon County government is the
long held belief that when we include citizens, we make better decisions
and have a greater positive impact on our community.  I can tell you
after almost seventeen years with the County organization, this belief
is one which has been reflected in the way County Commissions have
served and how the County has conducted the public's business for many
years - and since before my time.  But in a time of unprecedented
economic challenges and unfortunate political pressures, as local
government continues to struggle to comprehend how to fulfill our
obligations to our community, we are just beginning to realize the
enormous potential we have to more effectively engage our citizens in
ways that are meaningful, which reinforce the powerful connection that
people have to this place they live, and which tap into the great
capacity of our human capital.

The County Commission has ensured that this new standard of citizen
engagement is not a fad, or an exercise, or an initiative - that may
come or go until we move on to the next thing.   It marks the next step
in our progress as a viable 21st century local government. It builds on
that foundation of including citizens in their county government, yes.
But not because you have a "right" to that - of course you do.  And
not because we are an altruistic government - I believe we are. But
rather, because we recognize that we can neither afford to throw money
we do not have at our problems, nor have the talents our people
overlooked or marginalized as we try to move forward as a community even
in tough times.
 
Meaningful citizen engagement is an important part of our culture - or
just how we do things around here.  One where no detail is too small, no
process too important and no problem too complex not to ask ourselves
instinctively: how can we gain from the perspectives outside of the
Courthouse?  I would like to share with you just a few ways, big and
small, that the County is increasing the frequency, the diversity and
the intensity of our efforts to better engage you.

Today, Leon County will host the second in our recently launched
Citizen Engagement Series. This month's session is entitled:
"Balancing Budgets and Exercising Fiscal Stewardship: Making Hard
Choices in Challenging Times."  These three hour bi-monthly sessions
provide the opportunity for citizens and county officials to regularly
interact with each other on all matters of county government operations.
The series provide citizens with in depth knowledge of county government
and the ability for the County to get direct perspectives and insight
from citizens. These are highly immersive sessions; not just citizens
listening to PowerPoint presentations, but rather a hands-on experience
to connect them with their county government. Please visit the
County's website at www.LeonCountyFL.gov for more information on
today's session and future sessions in the series.

Speaking of the Leon County website, the County recently launched a
powerful and highly interactive redesigned site as another means to
connect with citizens and provide you the information you need at your
finger tips.  The site features our "Citizens Connect" button which
provides the information you are looking for fast.  It's an "easy
button" for county government.  With one click you can access online
services, report or track a service call, make an inquiry, or simply
talk to a live person. We also developed a "Your Checkbook" feature - an
online searchable database for actual county expenditures.  Across the
top of the page are drop down menus categorized in what we call our
"Core Four" areas of emphasis, which include: Demonstrating
Performance and Results, Promoting Transparency, Accountability and
Accessibility, Engaging Citizens and Partnering with our Community, and
Ensuring Liveability and Sustainability.  Each of the core four menus
contain much useful information and are constantly updated. The idea
behind the website is simple, when you remove the clutter, you begin to
remove the frustration, and when you remove the mystery, you promote
trust.  Just last week, our website received an "A" by Sunshine
Review and was recognized with a Sunny Award as one of the most
transparent websites in the country (an award you cannot apply for).

Another effort I am proud to announce is that in every county division
we are conducting annual meetings where we invite our customers in and
ask them questions around how specifically we can serve and engage them
better. Our LEADS review stands for: Listening for changing needs,
engaging citizens and employees, aligning processes, delivering results
and striving for continuous improvement. This goes beyond simply placing
suggestion boxes in County facilities or on the County website. During
these LEAD reviews, customers are in the room with key staff discussing
what works, what doesn't and where we can improve.  Every division must
complete a report with recommendations for improvements derived from the
process which is delivered to me.  Over 140 citizens engaged in this
process in only the last couple of months.

As I stated earlier, Leon County is engaging citizens in ways big and
small and too many to exhaust here.  Recently the County Commission
established a citizen committee to make recommendations on a possible
extension of the one-cent infrastructure surtax ("Blue Print 2000"),
which has the potential reshape our community.  In another ongoing
County Commission deliberation involving the evaluation of the economic
impact of a competitive sports complex, a member of the Knight Creative
Class Initiative was invited and served on the committee with county
staff to select the consultant.  This of course is in addition to over
250 citizens who currently serve on advisory committees and focus groups
for the County.

I submit to you that your county government and your community needs
your active engagement if we are to be a community which realizes
progress, stays a great place to live and attracts and retains talent
even in the toughest of times.  When you engage with Leon County
government you will not be treated as a customer, but as a co-creator of
our community.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vince Long became the Leon County Administrator on July 1, and he has
worked for the County since 1995. He can be reached at (850) 606-5300 or
LongV@LeonCountyFL.gov.
 

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