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Willmar moves ahead with City Council retreat

WILLMAR -- Mayor Marv Calvin will take steps, along with City Administrator Charlene Stevens, toward setting up a strategic planning retreat with Willmar City Council members.

WILLMAR - Mayor Marv Calvin will take steps, along with City Administrator Charlene Stevens, toward setting up a strategic planning retreat with Willmar City Council members.
Calvin discussed the retreat proposal with the council Tuesday night and indicated he will make arrangements with facilitator Mark Deterding of Triune Leadership Services LLC of Alexandria. The cost is $3,500.
The mayor, council and city officials have held a retreat every two years after a general election to discuss goals and strategic planning. Calvin said the mayor and city administrator have traditionally worked together to coordinate retreats. Previous retreats were held in 2013, 2011, 2009 and 2007.
Stevens said Deterding was one of two consultants who responded to the city’s request for proposals to facilitate the retreat. The other was Bruce Miles of Big River Group of St. Cloud.
Stevens recommended the council go forward with a planning a retreat and perhaps initially hold shorter two-hour sessions focusing on roles and responsibilities, procedure and norms, better working relationships and understanding the value of long-range planning.
The process will include individual one-on-one interviews between the facilitator and each council member during which members could express their concerns and priorities before crafting the retreat agenda. The mayor and council would attend the retreat, with possible involvement from staff.
Calvin said he asked that the retreat discussion be placed on the council agenda because he was interested in hearing what council members would like to see happen.
“We did talk about it in the (Labor Relations Committee) report,’’ Calvin said, referring to a retreat discussion that took place at the Feb. 12 Labor Committee meeting. Committee Chair Steve Ahmann reported the committee’s discussion to the council. He reported that after a lengthy discussion, there appeared to be a desire to hold a retreat with a neutral facilitator.
Calvin recommended Deterding because Deterding has worked with a number of Willmar businesses. He wanted to hear what the council wants to do and take that information and move forward.
“I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later. I’d like to see it happen by the end of March,’’ he said.
Denis Anderson said he listened to the audio recording of the Labor Committee meeting, during which there was a discussion about whether the retreat should be held in Willmar or out of town. Anderson said he did not object to whether the retreat is held in Willmar or out of town.
“I just think it is very, very important that we do this,’’ he said. “I like the original idea of discussing roles and responsibilities and several other things. Also terribly important is that we have a facilitator.’’
Anderson said he knew that a comment at the Labor meeting by Ron Christianson - who said council members should get together as team “in the locker room’’ to resolve issues of trust and respect - was made in jest.
“I don’t think that is what we really want to do. We want to be open and transparent and allow everybody to have input,’’ Anderson said.
Christianson asked why the council would want a consultant talking to them who has a preconceived idea of how the council runs.
In his executive summary, Deterding wrote that Calvin and Stevens would like to enhance the current culture of the council and staff. He also wrote: “This group has a history of mistrust and dysfunction, and they feel getting the two groups together for a working retreat could lead to improving the current culture.’’
Calvin said Deterding watched the council meetings.
“That’s why we had trouble finding somebody. The first two we had lined up said look for somebody else. You’re not going to have somebody come in and look to work with you if they haven’t done some research,’’ Calvin said. “That’s why I want everybody to have the opportunity to speak with them one-on-one because what I heard from the last retreat was that there was preconceived ideas on that one as well.”

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