The big picture
City leaders met this week to build a common vision for Marshfield’s future
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Calling it an attempt to take the “30,000-foot view,” Mayor Chris Meyer and City Administrator Steve Barg met with members of the Marshfield Common Council Tuesday night to discuss a vision for the future of Marshfield in the first of what will likely be multiple strategic planning meetings.
In an email, Barg asked the council members to come up with important issues they see facing the city, things they believe could make the city a better place, and goals they would like to pursue over the next few years. During the meeting, city officials used those ideas to form broad categories to focus on as the strategic planning process unfolds.
“We want to make sure we stay high, high level tonight,” Meyer said. “How do we position the city moving forward? What are our priorities, what are we really good at, and what can we do more of, and what should we do less of?”
The categories the group came up with as areas of focus were recreational facilities, city facilities, economic development, infrastructure, financial management, partnerships for the city, and communication with citizens. Exactly what they aim to do in each category and how to allocate resources toward their goals will be discussed in future meetings as Tuesday’s session was dedicated to simply defining areas of focus.
“I would envision these (several) topics really being the top level headings in a plan that then identify certain achievable goals underneath each one,” Meyer said.
Categories receiving the most discussion during the meeting were economic development, communication with citizens, and recreation and quality of life.
Economic development was discussed thoroughly by the group as something that the city needs to continue to evaluate.
“I think that is the most important thing that we have to gear up for,” said Alderman Tom Buttke. “What are we doing to try to attract people to our community?”
Alderman Chris Jockheck added that he believed quality of life issues like the state of Marshfield’s recreational facilities tie directly to any economic development efforts, particularly in terms of attracting new business and new residents to the city.
“We’ve got to do something to show that we want someone here and that we offer them something and also to give to the folks that are already here, the citizens. What are we doing for them?” Jockheck said.
The group also discussed the prevalence of Marshfield Clinic and Saint Joseph’s Hospital and striking a balance between marketing those facilities as a strength of the community while still making sure to highlight the city’s industries outside of the health care realm.
“The medical complex causes some challenges too in the sense that, obviously, they’re an important part of the community, and when we start talking about things like marketing and branding it always seems to come up that we are a medical community,” said Barg. “We want to make sure that we don’t focus entirely on one industry and forget the rest of what we have going.”
Further development of the downtown and availability of housing in the city are also areas the group plans to focus on in future meetings.
Communicating with citizens
Finding a way to better engage with residents and developing a level of dialogue between the local government and citizens was covered at length in the meeting. The group discussed how citizens may feel that their voices will not be valued even if they write to or call a city official and the need to change that notion.
“We need to do it for two reasons. One is we need to get people interested in serving in government because we’ve got a lot of the same people serving on multiple committees,” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “The other part of it is … we need to take government to them. We need to find some way of engaging them in some way.”
Also mentioned in this discussion was further developing a sense of pride about living in Marshfield.
“Cities that are successful seem to have that sense of community pride, and the more that you have, the more likely you are to succeed,” Barg said. “I think what we’re trying to say here is that in working with other entities and working with our citizens, we can do better. We can get more ideas, more suggestions, and we can make ourselves better.”
Recreation and quality of life
In discussing quality of life and recreation in Marshfield, the group brought up adding more activities for residents to enjoy in the city but also the need to market what already exists.
Barg said that as a person who has not always lived in Marshfield he views the city as a place with many activities, but that might not be the case for someone who has lived here for many years.
“There’s a lot to do around here. I think you become stale to your environment after a while,” Barg said.
Buttke advocated further showcasing the community and its facilities on local television programs.
“Let’s show some of our facilities that we have on here so people know what’s out there,” Buttke said.
The next strategic planning session is scheduled for March 24, and the group will look to further establish goals in each area of focus that they developed in this initial meeting.