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Waynesboro leaders plan to plan

Story by Chris Graham

Frank Lucente doesn’t like the word vision. Tim Williams, significantly, does.

“We certainly need an action plan. What’s the Scripture – without a vision, my people will perish?” Mayor Williams said at Monday’s Waynesboro City Council work session, interjecting into what had been a lengthy discussion involving Vice Mayor Frank Lucente and council members Nancy Dowdy and Lorie Smith on the merits of having the governing body engage in long-term strategic planning.

“I’ve always been a person who believes in processes and planning,” said Dowdy, a member of city council since 2002, and an avid proponent since her first days on council of strategic planning as a mode of operation in City Hall. “I don’t know how we can go somewhere if we don’t know where we’re going, to put it in simplistic terms. I’m very concerned about us not prioritizing what we need to do and how we need to do it. I really struggle with bringing things to the table that have not been prioritized, or understanding what we want to do first, second, third and fourth,” Dowdy said.

That got the debate going. Lucente responded by stating that he wasn’t saying “that we not do it, but I’ve sat in these things all day, and we plan and we plan, and we’ve got 15 things going on, and we get back, and nothing gets done,” Lucente argued.

“I think we ought to sit down – what are we going to do for the next two to four years? I don’t have to worry about 2015. I may not be here then,” Lucente said.

“We’ll begin in a month or two, and they may have already started, on the 2010 budget. So we’ve got work a little beyond two years in terms or looking at resources and thinking about how we’re going to make these things happen,” Smith shot back.

The issue probably seems inside baseball to some, but with the new dynamic on city council – the addition of Bruce Allen in Ward B changing the makeup of city council from one that was considered progressive to one that is considered conservative now being the key there – it is imperative that the new council has some idea where things are headed.

Of course, I’m saying that, and Lucente attacked the very premise of planning and strategy being of any value in the management of local government.

“Everywhere I go I see vision. I’m sick of vision, really. I’m sick of the word – dream, whatever, plan. I don’t mind a plan. I just know how I work as an individual. I see something that needs to be done, I try to get it done, I go to the next one. I’m a one-project guy – one, two, three, four, five,” Lucente said.

“I can see what you’re saying there – is you want to prioritize. I think of – here’s the EDA, the pre-emption lights, and they’re coming out of me one at a time. But I’m not trying to overload the staff. I’m trying to do one and say, bring it to council, and let’s do that. But I can understand your concern about what’s coming up,” Lucente said. “I don’t have any problem with the council coming up with a priority list. But I can’t do – it’s hard for me to do 10 projects, 10 balls in the air. I like to do one, knock it out, go to the next. That’s just the way I do things.”

“And I understand and respect that, Frank. But there are five of us here,” Dowdy interrupted, and made the point of the day, at least until Williams added his two cents in support of setting a planning meeting for a date in the near future.

“I like the idea of the bucket list so that we can keep these issues before us, and so we can have benchmarks and can make sure that we’re making progress on them,” Williams said.

No formal vote was taken on the matter at last night’s council meeting, but there was a consensus of Williams, Dowdy and Smith to get a planning meeting on the schedule in the next month to two months.

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