Enfield NH is located adjacent to Lebanon and Hanover and has ~ 4,600 permanent residents. Its population increases considerably during the summer months due to natural and cultural resource attractions such as Mascoma Lake, Crystal Lake, 3,000+ acres of public land, Enfield Shaker Museum, Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, Whaleback Mountain Ski Area, and the Montcalm Golf Club.
To build upon its strong foundation of innovative thinking and community engagement, the Town of Enfield, in April 2018, adopted a process to create strategic plans for all its departments and to integrate them with an updated master plan and capital improvements plan. Collectively, this effort will serve as a roadmap for ongoing enhancements to municipal services and overall community development.
“Enfield is a close-knit community of people who support one another and aim to retain the culture and character of a rural, but progressive New Hampshire community,” says Meredith Smith, Chairperson of the Board of Selectmen. To continue to do that, according to Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth, “we have to be intentional in what we strive for and how we invest over the coming years.” A commitment to strategic governance can transform a community, and success of the process requires broad based buy-in among employees, local officials, and citizens.
Enfield partnered with the Amherst-NH-based Center for Strategic Governance, LLC. (www.strat-gov.com) for this initiative. “The role of strategic governance is to help leaders and citizens create a desired future,” explained Center Director Mike Akillian. “It consists of two ongoing efforts: strategic thinking and operational governance. Strategic thinking helps the community decide what to achieve, and operational governance focuses on how to achieve it. Together they constitute applied leadership for municipalities. We are very pleased to be supporting Enfield in their adoption of this type of governance.”
Enfield’s eight operating departments developed multi-year strategic plans with measurable outcomes along with the strategic initiatives and investments needed to achieve those outcomes. These plans, publicly-presented in August and September prior to the 2019 planning and budgeting process, have enabled the Enfield Town Manager, Board of Selectmen, Budget Committee, Planning Board, CIP Committee, and residents frame broad priorities and make informed financial tradeoffs. Town officials also have a better sense of the quality-of-life factors as public safety, infrastructure, emergency services, town character, housing, business development, financial health, recreation, environmental quality, etc. and which deserve their focus in the next few years so that Enfield continues to be such a desirable community. These plans will be refreshed annually to reflect real-world changes and to ensure that desired citizen-focused outcomes are being achieved.
As part of this process, department heads created 10 work products that, together, helped them understand past demands on their departments, upcoming trends and impacts, and ways to anticipate and meet future demands. These included:
What has been clarified through this effort is that residents want to retain Enfield’s town character, sense of community, natural environment, and heritage, because they generally like the town as it is. That said, residents and town officials agree they will focus on key strategic initiatives to improve the following quality-of-life aspects:
According to town officials, immediate outcomes have included:
The strategic governance process has also enabled Enfield to integrate the results of other analyses covering water systems, wastewater system and options for a potential new municipal complex into their planning. Dialogue with voters helps local officials set priorities, identify areas of strength and needed improvement, and ultimately ensure that municipal services are effectively meeting the needs of Enfield residents. The 2019 planning and budgeting process served as the first year of a multi-year planning window.
The strategic governance process enabled Enfield's municipal government to articulate a clear rationale for all of their resident-oriented plans and the investments related to achieving them. As a result, at the March 2019 annual town meeting, voters approved all articles proposed by the Select Board (which were also supported by the Budget Committee) including a strategic decision to shift the Fire Department from the Fire Ward system to report to the Town Manager under municipal government. This has enabled Fire and Ambulance to better interoperate, recruit and cross-train volunteers, and likely merge.
"I welcome the progress our town has made in the past year in moving forward with a planning process for the future of Enfield.”
Meredith Smith, Select Board Member
“This has been an excellent exercise for us all to go through, with all departments and major committees being involved. It is encouraging us to ‘think outside the box’, see several common areas of concern, and identify issues that need further study.”
John Kluge, Select Board Chair
"The adoption of strategic governance has brought a more business-like approach to a town that has functioned somewhat like a game of hot potato and kick the can. Strategic governance aligns well with my desire to lead change in Enfield. I believe it has given us a reference point to go forward as well as metrics for accountability."
Kate Plumley Stewart, Select Board Member
“This process has enabled us to integrate our master planning and capital improvements planning with our departmental efforts. Clear strategic goals now serve as a basis for land use planning and aligning ordinances in a well-timed fashion. They also aid in timing capital expenditures, since those proposed expenditures are tied closely to clearly framed, strategic initiatives. This project is strongly supported by our residents as well as public officials, because it helps us allocate limited resources very effectively to achieve our strategic priorities.”
Ryan Aylesworth, Former Town Manager
“Setting goals as part of strategic governance that benefit the people of Enfield, determining how they will benefit, and how to measure success -- forces departments/administration to think beyond day to day tasks; to look at the big picture. It’s easy, over time, to lose sight of what government can and should do for its residents. I believe each department has a better sense of direction because of this process.
“While I have always tried to provide great customer service, the strategic governance process has provided me with a clearer idea of what we can do to provide more value to the residents of our community and how to make it happen; to think outside the box. Through the initial process, and I anticipate through the annual review process, strategic governance will help guide us toward accomplishing our goals.”
Alisa Bonnette, Assistant Town Manager
“This process has helped the Police Department articulate a vision and challenge us to use objective data and analysis in evaluating our progress toward achieving goals.”
Roy Holland, Chief of Police
“Strategic governance has helped DPW set more ambitious goals, but it is also giving us the tools to better communicate with residents.”
Jim Taylor, Public Works Director