The city of Durango embarked on a strategic planning process this week that will shape things big and small, from the city’s overarching vision to departmental to-do lists.
The strategic plan defines where the city wants to go and how to get there. This week, community representatives shared their priorities – including those related to housing, quality of life and jobs, to name a few.
City Councilor Kim Baxter said, to her knowledge, this is the first time Durango has had an overarching strategic plan for the organization.
“We need a vision of: What do we want the community to be?” Baxter said.
On Tuesday, representatives from 10 businesses and economic development, education and tourism groups gathered to offer input. They shared what they enjoyed about living in Durango, the biggest challenges facing city leaders and ways the city can improve the quality of life.
More than 20 members of the public chimed in with their own thoughts during Tuesday’s meeting, and on Wednesday, representatives from city boards and commissions weighed in on the same questions.
Many of the stakeholders highlighted housing as a top concern facing the city. Dan Snowberger, superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, and Tom Stritikus, president of Fort Lewis College, said workforce housing can be a “deal breaker” when trying to recruit teachers and staff members.
“When I think about the things we struggle with around here, it comes back to housing,” said Tim Walsworth with the Durango Business Improvement District.
Multiple economic leaders, board members and residents want balanced economic development: the ability to attract high-paying, quality jobs without becoming a resort town or sacrificing the quality of life in Durango.
Some people mentioned the need to review old policies or plans and identify what does and doesn’t serve the community.
“We have a multitude of plans, and most of them sit on the shelf. We do a really good job of making those plans, but we don’t use them,” Baxter said. “Part of the reason, I believe why, is because we don’t have the overall strategic plan that makes everything cohesive.”
Baxter said the main themes she spotted were preserving Durango’s unique community, diversifying the economy, budgeting city funds responsibly, adding jobs and managing future growth.
“We have to know where we’re going and how we get there in the best possible manner,” Baxter said.
Councilor Melissa Youssef noted people’s concerns about the availability of affordable housing and high-paying jobs, incentivizing development projects, balancing city priorities and addressing essential services, such stormwater drains and water infrastructure capacity.
In coming weeks, councilors will discuss their views about the strategic plan before it is drafted and finalized this spring.
Because more than half of the council seats will be open during the April elections, the strategic planning process focuses on short-term goals. City Council will return to the strategic planning process after the elections.
“I believe (the strategic plan) is extremely important because it’s going to focus our work and our priorities hopefully for the years to come,” Youssef said.