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DAVID CRIGGER/BRISTOL HERALD COURIER — Doug Eadie speaks Friday as members of the  Bristol Virginia City Council and other community leaders embark on the vision 2020 process.

Officials honing a vision for Bristol's future

February 02, 2011

Bristol Herald Courier
By David Mcgee
Published: January 28, 2011

City and community leaders spent much of Friday identifying and honing a vision for the city’s future.

Working with consultant Doug Eadie, of Tampa, Fla., the Bristol, Va., City Council and almost 30 representatives of city departments and local organizations participated in a strategic planning session at the Bristol Public Library. Among the participants were the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Intermont College, Believe in Bristol, Rhythm & Roots Reunion and Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

“This is good for Bristol. It’s good to have the city employees and some of the stakeholders and the council itself go through this,” Mayor Don Ashley said. “We were hoping to hear some things we needed to hear — and we are. People are bringing up some issues we need to hear about.”

The session is the first time in a number of years that city leaders have held a strategic planning retreat, but the first with all the other parties involved, according to former Mayor and Economic Development Committee Chairman Doug Weberling.

“We did this years ago, but we did it differently,” Weberling said. “This is good because it gets you thinking. I hope they continue doing it and maybe involve some more regular citizens to get some of their input — because that’s important.”

The group discussed what values they want the city to represent and identified some challenges that need to be addressed.

The city paid $5,000 for Eadie, a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author, to present an abbreviated version of his vision program, City Manager Dewey Cashwell said.

Cashwell, who said he’s worked with Eadie while in other cities, said the program offered participants much value.

“This will assist the council tremendously in creating a better network with stakeholders,” Cashwell said. “It creates a dialogue that wasn’t already in existence with all the stakeholders. All of them have some interaction, but this is really a chance for all of them to get together.”

Group and breakout sessions also gave stakeholders like businesses and nonprofit organizations an unfiltered opportunity to speak out about issues, Cashwell said.

“If they take one thing away from this, is it has to be an ongoing process,” Eadie said. “They need to keep this going. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it needs to be a formal process. But this is a very high-quality group with a lot of enthusiasm.”

The group that discussed values and vision, for example, cited honesty, integrity, friendliness, fairness, security, responsibility, creativity and progressiveness as terms they hope describe the community of Bristol, Va. Another group identified challenges including attitudes about recycling, environmental awareness, litter and green energy in a coal-producing region.

“Vision is the gold standard for a board or council and one of the preeminent reasons we have governance,” Eadie told the group. “But operational things seem to crowd agendas and none of them rise to strategic levels. Vision is very powerful, but very neglected. You hear about vision as a pithy paragraph but that’s just PR. Vision is what kind of city do we want to create and once you have that vision there is a great opportunity for follow-through planning.”

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