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Letter: City leaders are not listening

As a member of the Board of Directors of Rice Memorial Hospital, I recently had the opportunity to tour the new Rice Care Center Therapy Suites. It goes without saying that none of us want to need the Therapy Suites, but if we do, we will find a beautiful facility and an outstanding staff committed to the health and well-being of the residents of the Therapy Suites community (see Anne Polta’s recent story in the West Central Tribune).

As Director Troy Barrick shared with the Board, they not only have new and remodeled space, but they restructured the organization and almost all positions and job duties changed significantly. He admitted that some people questioned the need to change and said “we’re a five star facility” and “no one is complaining” and “we have zero-deficiencies.” His rejoinder to that was “but we can do even better” and the early assessments are that satisfaction of employees and residents has improved significantly since the organizational restructuring.

As I listened to the City Council debate the pros and cons of the recommendations found in their recent organizational study, I was struck by the similarity of the response. I heard Council members say “we already do a good job” and “no one is complaining” and “this has worked for 20 years” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That sounds like folksy wisdom, but with all due respect to that perspective, I think the right question is “can we get better?”

I do agree with council person Audrey Nelsen that it does take courage — and I’d say, leadership as well — to restructure the organization to better meet the needs of the citizens of Willmar. I urge the Council to reconsider the recommendations of the consultants — I understand that one can’t know in advance if greater efficiency and effectiveness will be the result of the organizational changes recommended by the consultants, but we do know that if nothing changes, nothing will change.

I want to live in a community that thoughtfully consults with experts, listens to the recommendations of its citizens and its city staff and leadership, and isn’t afraid to try some new approaches to improve the city for all its citizens. 

Doug Allen