Council retreating at home

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2005

Suffolk City Councilman Curtis Milteer doesn’t do sleepovers.

In fact, most Suffolk lawmakers seem to prefer sleeping in their own beds.

So with a 4 to 3 vote, city lawmakers on Wednesday pulled the sheets over City Manager R. Steven Herbert’s proposal to hold the council’s annual fall planning retreat in Norfolk on Sept. 15-16.

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The two-day retreat was supposed to be held at the Norfolk Marriott and Nauticus, with council members and city officials traveling to and from the neighboring city by bus on both days. Plans did not call for an overnight stay.

Norfolk was tapped for the retreat because of its success at neighborhood revitalization, an area Suffolk will be aggressively tackling in the coming year, Herbert said.

Several council members protested, saying they had never even been told Norfolk was being considered for the retreat. City staffers polled council members in July as to whether they preferred the retreat be held in Williamsburg or Suffolk.

&uot;I don’t want to stay in Williamsburg or Norfolk,&uot; said Milteer. &uot;I like to go home at night and sleep in the bed I purchased.

&uot;The equation changed. I think information should have been given out to all of us simultaneously.&uot;

Milteer was joined by Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and council members Linda T. Johnson and Calvin Jones in opposing the Norfolk proposal.

&uot;I was under the impression we were going to be staying here in Suffolk,&uot; Bennett said.

&uot;We should be using it (the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Convention Center) rather than going out of town.&uot;

Ironically, the new hotel and convention center is already booked for those dates, forcing the city to find an alternate location within the city for its retreat, Herbert said.

It’s unusual for governing bodies to hold retreats in their own cities, he said. In recent years, city lawmakers have traveled to places like Annapolis, Md., New Bern, N.C., and Staunton for their retreats.

Getting away from the structure of daily government – even if it’s only 30 miles away – can be a valuable experience for city officials, he said.

&uot;Corporations do it all the time,&uot; Herbert said Thursday. &uot;It lets people get out and focus on issues and work on their team dynamics.&uot;

Councilman Charles F. Brown challenged his fellow council members Wednesday, saying he believed the council would benefit from visiting another city.

&uot;The idea is to go and learn, to see, touch and feel what others have done and where they have been successful,&uot; Brown said. &uot;If we are serious about our neighborhoods, we should go to Norfolk.&uot;