Council meeting with facilitator

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Today, Suffolk City Council members are meeting individually with the facilitator that will lead the council’s goal-setting retreat next week.

Lyle Sumek, a Florida-based consultant specializing in team-building, strategic planning and goal-setting for local government, will help the council refine its objectives and priorities during the retreat at the upscale Tides Inn in Irvington on Aug. 8-9.

This week’s meetings will give Sumek the opportunity to get to know council members and their different perspectives on goals for the city, said Dana Woodson, the city’s spokeswoman. During the retreat, Sumek will work with council as a group to build goals revolving around the council’s existing five priorities: quality of life, education, economic development, smart growth, and downtown and neighborhood revitalization.

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Mayor E. Dana Dickens III believes Sumek will help renew council’s focus on city business.

&uot;I think he will be able to help us,&uot; he said. &uot;Sometimes, if we have objectives that aren’t clear or articulate, someone like this guy can help us crystallize them into clear, concise objectives.&uot;

Although it’s the first time the city has brought in a facilitator for council, a growing number of municipal governments are using similar services, Dickens said. Sumek’s web page indicates that Virginia Beach is one of his firm’s clients.

&uot;Facilitators have become useful for governments,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;There are seven different people with seven different views of an item. He will be able to help those seven have a better understanding of the others’ positions and bring their views closer together.&uot;

Dickens and Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett are hopeful the facilitator will bring a sense of unity to a council that has frequently appeared in discord over the past two years.

During that time, the council appeared not to have been &uot;homogenous in working as a team,&uot; Bennett said.

&uot;I’m hoping we come back unified, with the same objectives and goals, and that we are ready to move forward as a team,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. It just means everybody gets a chance to say what’s on his mind…. and that even if we disagree, we’ll respect each other’s opinions.&uot;

Assistant City Manager Cindy Rohlf could not estimate the cost for the overnight retreat or for Sumek’s services on Tuesday, Woodson said. She said Sumek’s contract and the specific services he will be providing have not yet been finalized.

This retreat does not replace the annual three-day planning retreat that council takes each fall, Dickens said. In the past, those trips have been to places that have successfully accomplished some of the same goals Suffolk is aspiring to. For example, past retreats have been held in Edenton, and New Bern, N.C. and most recently, Staunton.

&uot;This will complement the fall retreat,…take it to a higher level,&uot; Dickens. During the fall retreat, the council will detail ways to accomplish the goals set next week, he said.