The Purcellville Town Council wrapped up its two-day strategic planning retreat Saturday with a greater understanding of town operations and a new action plan to achieve its goals.
Moderated by Mike Chandler, director of education for Virginia Tech’s Land Use Education Program, the retreat set a brisk pace Friday and Saturday.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser said he was happy with the way the planning session had gone. “It was very positive; I was encouraged by it. This will be a team focused on solutions for all the problems.”
The seven-member council has four new members, elected in May. Citing their knowledge of business, the economy, process and government, Fraser said he thought council members would look at a broad spectrum of issues in weighing their decisions.
Councilman Chris Bledsoe, who was elected in May, was also pleased. “I wish we could do it more often,” he said, citing the retreat as a great opportunity for members to get together with a different agenda than normal and “put our heads together in terms of our own initiatives, compare notes and strategies how best to achieve those goals.”
Councilman Doug McCollum, a member of the previous Town Councilman, said, “On balance, it was a constructive session,’ commending Chandler for keeping the conservation to the point.
Town Manager Robert W. Lohr and Assistant Town Manager Danny Davis hope to come up with a draft summation by the end of the week and bring it back to council for approval.
Friday’s session was devoted to meeting with all department heads and representatives of the town’s advisory boards and commission. That approach gave council members, particularly those new to the panel, the opportunity to fully understand the work of town managers. An informal dinner session gave managers and council members the chance to know each other on a more personal level, also went well, according to Lohr.
On Saturday, the council got down to discussing its priorities. McCollum stressed the need to have regular council forums for the public, so residents can hear dialogue between members. Vice Mayor Karen Jimmerson agreed. “They like the dialogue,” she said, noting finding ways to help residents and small business owners get what they need is one of her key goals. McCollum also pointed out that residential infill developments in town could have “a more profound impact than commercial on the town as a place to live.”
Councilman Ryan Cool stated his number one priority: “We’ve got to do a better job of providing data for citizens. [Residents] need to see the same data as we have.”
Feedback for accountability was a key part of Saturday’s session, with the council stressing a desire to push out more information to the public, and by the same token find out how the public viewed its actions. By retreat’s end, thought was being given to explore online ways to receive that information.
Looking at the town’s current strategic initiatives, there was considerable tinkering with words, but essentially the council agreed to maintain four previously identified priority areas: Community and Economic Well-Being; Community Partnerships; Good Governance; and Funding the Future. Some new ones were added, including improving transparency and accountability, and streamlining the development and permitting processes for businesses.
The council also signaled its intention to be a major player in the western Loudoun region—seeking feedback from neighboring towns and bolstering the Coalition of Loudoun Towns.
Developing a definitive brand for Purcellville emerged as a council priority. The town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee was tapped to lead that effort and to conduct an annual business survey to see how the town meets their needs.
Transportation enhancements were cited as important, including a focus on the Rt. 7/Rt. 690 interchange and improved pedestrian and bike trails within town.
“We were able to capture what was critically important to them—from items they wanted to explore or from questions they’d heard in the community,” Lohr said.
Monday, the mayor praised Lohr’s management team. “They’re the ones who have to execute our strategy,” he said.