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Jennifer Williams: Transition team garners insight into city government

Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Mayor-elect Steve Williams invited 14 citizens of Huntington to join his transition team. These 14 were divided into four topic-group teams where they were tasked with identifying the most important issue with their topic that will improve the city and then to report back with their findings.

The team members spoke with city employees, supervisors, and the general public about on-the-ground issues that they face on a daily basis. In the end the four teams not only reported on the issues, they did much more.

As a participant and observer, I saw that a new opportunity arose through these meetings. One, we were able to gain more complete insight into the inner workings of city government. And two, everyday citizens were empowered to take ownership of the process of helping to develop the direction for the next four years in Huntington.

I have worked as a consultant in the city's Public Works department for almost a year. During the Public Works debriefing meeting, I became aware of many issues and activities that brought me to a deeper understanding of the true assets and challenges within our department. This level of transparency and wide-scope vision shifted many of my opinions and assumptions about how our department operates and why.

More importantly, I believe that the transition team members and members of the general public were able to see a more lucid picture of city government.

This became clear to me when Richard Cobb, a transition team member said, "I had no idea that there were only 15 people working in the streets department for the whole city. I will never complain again when things do not get done in a hurry!"

The opportunity for the public to continue to experience this level of transparency will lead to important shifts in attitude and opinion about the complex processes which our city leaders are constantly faced with managing.

In the meetings where the public was invited to contribute, the room was full of interested spectators and those who wanted to share their views. This process brought people together who have traditionally worked separately.

What I believe ultimately drew us all together was the opportunity to have ownership in the process of developing the vision and direction for the new administration.

It has been shown time and time again that offering people an opportunity to voice their perspective during the planning and development stage of any project will more adequately ensure that they have a stake in seeing the vision succeed. The format of these transition team meetings did just that.

I and others would like to see meetings like these continue. This process was a wonderful way of ensuring that people have the opportunity to see the inner workings of city government and to bring innovative solutions to issues that have plagued our city long enough.

We have many intelligent and thoughtful people in our community who have a variety of experiences. Having a forum like this offers a way for citizens to feel empowered to participate and contribute to the amazing transformation that we are experiencing in Huntington. This is a strong start to bringing the greater community to the table to help make educated proposals on how to work together to create a Huntington that we all love to live in.

Jennifer Williams is a Huntington resident.