by David Scurto, AICP
In 2009, the city of Riverview retained Carlisle/Wortman Associates to manage and staff the city’s community development and building departments. The city wanted to reduce costs but, more important, it wanted to attract development. After six years, we see our success in two ways.
MORE WITH LESS: When we first started, CWA reduced the department’s annual budget by around $120,000, largely with staff reduction. One full-time administrator and two part-time staff replaced a department with four full-time staff. Through better use of available technology and sheer energy, we were able to get more accomplished at a lesser cost than our predecessors. This was the intent of the city leaders when we were retained.
ATTITUDE CHANGE: A tall hurdle to overcome was changing attitudes to a warm and open atmosphere. This is difficult to quantify and happened over a longer time period, but may be the most important success. When we first arrived, we came to discover that prospective businesses and investors were accustomed to being told “No,” by the department, so they went elsewhere. That changed quickly. We hung out the “open for business” sign. Staff willingly adopted the attitude of welcoming any investor approaching our counter. Maybe we had to say “No” to some things, but staff was willing to show folks how to make their idea work within the ordinances.
Beyond our own department, we’ve extended this attitude to our work with our fellow staff in other departments, employing the methods I wrote about in this 2013 blog post. City staff embraced the open partnering approach across the board.
Plans, ordinances, code enforcement and investment have continued to fall into place in Riverview, buoyed by the high energy levels, acceptance of job descriptions and positive attitude that were part of the city’s vision when it made the change.