09/10/07 — Duplin leaders plan community meetings on future

View Archive

Duplin leaders plan community meetings on future

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 10, 2007 2:02 PM

Having accomplished its primary goal this year of lowering the property tax rate, the Duplin County Board of Commissioners is hoping a series of upcoming strategic planning meetings will help give it a road map to follow for the next three to five years.

"This is very important," Commissioner Cary Turner said. "You're not going to achieve any success without a plan. Planning is the basis for success."

County Manager Mike Aldridge explained that he is hoping the 50-person committee will come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of three to five very specific and achievable goals for the county to focus on. But, he added, he is not at all sure what those are going to be.

"Those haven't been defined yet. That's kind of the interesting thing," he said. "We're not going in with any preconceived notions, but I'd say three to five goals is probably enough to keep us working."

What he doesn't want, he continued, is for the committee to decide that the county should simply focus on broad areas like "education."

"We have a role in that, but it's not an area we can actually control and influence," he said. "I'm going to try to steer them to things we can actually accomplish and address."

The other difference between this effort and earlier strategic plans will hopefully be the level of support from the commissioners, he said.

"This is meant to continue the 1994 and 2002 strategic planning efforts," Aldridge said. "The last time we got kind of bogged down in the process. What I'm trying to do now is find people with an interest and a willingness to be involved in something like this."

Commission Chairman David Fussell also is expecting his fellow board members to take a more active role in developing the plan.

"The last time, as I understand, the commissioners were not involved much, and they didn't buy into it," he said. "This time Mike (Aldridge) wants us there and to have input so we'll buy into it and hopefully carry it out, rather than just pay it lip service."

And for his part, he continued, even though he has a fairly clear idea of what he believes are the important functions of the county government, he does not want to try to dictate or control the direction of the meetings.

"I would still think our three priorities would be public safety, No. 1, education, No. 2, and No. 3, economic development," he said. "Everything else is minor in comparison to those three.

"At least that's my philosophy, but I'm going in open-minded. I would love to hear what our folks want."

The kickoff meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension Auditorium at the Duplin Commons facility on Sept. 26. Other meetings will follow in the Department of Social Services Community Meeting Room Oct. 11 and 18, Nov. 8 and possibly Nov. 15. Each will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The meetings will be led by trained facilitators from N.C. State University and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.