Vision quest

County ‘strategic planning’ carries into 2024

By Joy Ufford,
Posted 1/3/24

“Strategic planning is a process in which an organization’s leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization’s goals and objectives. The process includes establishing the sequence in which those goals should be realized so that the organization can reach its stated vision,” according to several websites.

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Vision quest

County ‘strategic planning’ carries into 2024


SUBLETTE COUNTY – During their last three meetings of 2023, Sublette County commissioners hazarded conversations about “strategic planning,” first in November with a proposal to the five to undertake creating a mission statement and goals to embrace common countywide goals for the future.

These would help guide the Board of Sublette County Commissioners – currently Doug Vickrey, Tom Noble, chair Sam White, Dave Stephens and Mack Bradley – to shape policies and make decisions that benefit an overall vision.

First, though, came questions about “who, what, where, when, why – and how” that were still being asked as of the commissioners’ Jan. 2 meeting.

“Strategic planning” is not the same as the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Commission’s extensive ongoing effort to rewrite and update planning and zoning regulations – currently under review by the county commissioners and planning office.

“Strategic planning is a process in which an organization’s leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization’s goals and objectives. The process includes establishing the sequence in which those goals should be realized so that the organization can reach its stated vision,” according to several websites.

Nor will it replace or merge with the oft-referenced Sublette County Comprehensive Plan that is meant to guide the top five commissioners in making land-use decisions, explained Chris Lacinak at their Jan.2 meeting.

Lacinak is chairman of the Sublette P&Z Commission and spoke first as a Sublette County resident of the Hoback Basin, saying he has developed “thousands, if not hundreds” of strategic goals through his company, AudioVisual Preservation Solutions.

“So I bring some experience to bear on this topic,” he said.

The concept

Initially in November, Sublette County Administrator Jeness Saxton introduced Teton County Extension Agent Mary Martin, who outlined the forward-thinking process as she has facilitated in the past. A smaller group of 15 people or less could be selected by a steering committee to reach consensus on supporting a future goal, Martin explained.

Martin and Sublette BOCES Director Robin Schamber related their previous collaboration attended by about 75 people to envision Sublette County in a decade, 2033. Schamber’s focus was to determine what educational gaps Sublette BOCES might be able fill now and in the future, she told commissioners.

Martin emphasized that her work on this would cost the county nothing, as part of her Extension agent role. Commissioners questioned how to get started and how to find an overall goal each of them could support that citizens would be willing accept as an overlay.

Commissioners set Saxton, Schamber and Martin to the task of kicking off the process.

At their Dec. 5 meeting, Saxton reported that she drew up a list of potential candidates for the strategic goal committee.

Noble and Bradley agreed to serve on the committee given a certain time frame. Vickrey asked if the meetings needed to be open to the public, because he could see some committee members preferring to not speak their minds in front of an open audience.

Invitation only

Saxton’s list of potential candidates includes Pinedale Mayor Matt Murdock and she followed commissioners’ request to notify the Marbleton and Big Piney town councils for a representative from each.

Both towns’ mayors brought up the invite at their December meetings; the first committee meeting date of Jan. 8, 6-8 p.m., conflicts with Marbleton’s regular meeting. In Big Piney, councilmembers discussed who could attend which upcoming committee meeting – the first on Jan. 8 will take place at Big Piney Town Hall. Both councils agreed to ensure someone would represent their respective municipalities.

The next two meetings are set for Feb. 19 and March 18, 6-8 p.m. at locations to be determined.

Saxton said invitations were also extended to these and accepted by “in no particular order” – Nancy Espenscheid, Mike Henn, Peter Paulin, Kari DeWitt, Paul Ulrich, Sam Sumrall, Dennis Fornstrom (to be exchanged for a P&Z Commission member), Dr. Erin Hastey, Paul Cook, Saxton herself, Schamber, Mack Bradley, Tom Noble and Josh Adams.

Notably lacking from the invitation-only list were residents under 40; mental-health or social-agency employees; students or others not in professional or administrative positions.


Lacinak requested a slot on county commissioners’ Jan. 2 agenda for “Strategic Plan Discussion,” explaining how he would approach “strategic planning” with advice for commissioners.

“I listened to every minute of talk about strategic planning,” he said of the county’s relevant audio files. “I heard a lot of confusion and doubt down to the moment it was passed.”

Their confusion represents risks to the process and value of the committee’s product, he said.

Usually a committee is tasked with “a specific charge and mandate” and that wasn’t clear to him, he said. “It would be really important for the participants for their time and you all as a board to put some specificity around (its charge).”

Giving a committee three 2-hour meetings to come up with specific countywide goals and strategies could be a waste of everyone’s time, he added, “but they could deliver the top 10 community issues for the county.”

That would be a foundation, for example, for a specific goal, to set specific strategies and tactics to resolve a specific issue, Lacinak said. But commissioners’ “buy-in” is necessary, as is making the process public.

They agreed to add Lacinak to this committee.

“There are five different guys here, with five different visions,” White said. “How do you come up with one statement from five guys with five different personalities?”

Lacinak said at that point an “alignment workshop” would help them set a foundation for one issue they can agree needs a solution. “Go for areas you can agree on.”

Public invited

White asked if the strategic planning meetings “need to be public.”

Sublette County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich said public records law does not specifically address “strategic planning” committee meetings but they should be open to the public.

He advised calling them “working sessions” similar to the P&Z Commission’s format, where the public can observe but not make comments.

Vickrey asked about representation “over the hill” in Bondurant; Sam Sumrall was invited and accepted.

“I hope we can get something out of six hours of meetings as a baseline for future conversations,” Noble said. He advised that some on the committee preferred “less coverage.”

The committee’s Jan. 8 meeting is posted on the county website, said Sublette County Clerk Carrie Long, who asked if the board wanted a more public notice.

“Put it in the paper,” White said.

Noble said perhaps he overestimated the public’s attention to the meetings.

“I say yes, put it out there,” Bradley said. “So we might get more ideas.”