By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council adopted a Five-Year Strategic Plan for Vinton for 2020-2025 at the council meeting on June 16. The plan is intended to identify the town’s priorities and outline an intentional approach to ensure the continued provision of valuable services to residents, visitors, and businesses. It also helps council and staff in developing the annual town budget.
The new Strategic Plan includes updated mission and vision statements, and three focused goals for the next five years.
The mission statement now says, “The Town of Vinton provides valuable services to residents, visitors, and businesses through transparent, efficient, and responsible governance while protecting its unique character and values.”
The vision statement plans for “a safe and engaged community welcoming to visitors, with a vibrant atmosphere that promotes a high quality of life for residents of all ages and interests.”
The three focused goals in the Vinton Strategic Plan for 2020-2025 are:
- Goal 1: To enhance the town’s infrastructure and livability
- Goal 2: To maintain an efficient and high-performing government
- Goal 3: To ensure the town’s continued financial viability by actively pursuing quality economic development
Council and members of the Town Leadership Team have been working on the plan since early 2020. They were assisted by the Council of Community Services in the strategic planning process, using a variety of data collection methods beginning with a survey of council members and staff prior to their annual strategic planning retreat on February 21 at the Vinton War Memorial.
In Phase 1 of the process, Town Council members and key staff completed an anonymous survey to help guide process and identify key focus points. A summary of the questions posed to them with their responses included:
- Question 1: What does the Town of Vinton do well today? Responses from those surveyed: fiscal responsibility, Public Works, economic development, safety, and citizen engagement.
- Question 2: What can the Town of Vinton do to improve? Responses: infrastructure, housing, public image, communication, and staffing.
- Question 3: Where would you like to see the Town of Vinton in five years? Responses: increased economic development, enhanced infrastructure, improved housing options, increased staff retention and efficiency.
- Question 4: What current or potential partnerships will help the town with its vision? Responses included: Roanoke County; regional partnerships with the Roanoke Regional Partnership, Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission; and citizens and businesses.
- Question 5: What obstacles might hamper the town’s vision? Responses: funding, lack of vision and direction, infrastructure and Public Works, staffing and leadership.
Phase II of the strategic planning process was discussion and development of goals during the planning retreat, facilitated by Alison Jorgenson, Amanda Holcomb, and Anne Marie Green from the Council of Community Services.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, Vice Mayor Keith Liles, and council members Sabrina McCarty, Janet Scheid, and Mike Stovall participated along with Leadership Team members which included Town Manager Barry Thompson, Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters, Director of Planning and Zoning Anita McMillan, Police Chief Tom Foster, Finance Director/Treasurer Anne Cantrell, Public Works Director Joey Hiner, Director of Community Programs and Facilities Chasity Barbour, Human Resources Director Donna Collins, and Executive Assistant/Town Clerk Susan Johnson.
Meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted plans, the intention of the retreat was to identify steps to continue “the dramatic growth underway in Vinton for the past several years.” The plan has evolved during the spring as the town has adapted to the changed economic picture, anticipating reduced revenues for an undetermined period of time.
The strategic plan for Goal 1– enhancing the town’s infrastructure and livability– emphasizes, “The Town of Vinton is a healthy and vibrant community. Our goal is to create a town where people want to live, work, and play. Town leadership strives to engage the residential, business, and faith communities in open conversations about important issues. Safety and security are increasingly recognized as essential aspects of the town as they help shape the overall appeal, viability, productivity, and economic stability. This notion also extends to utilities and amenities that are founded on best management practices and long-term planning.”
Strategies for reaching this goal focus on community policing and engaging residents, enhancing the condition and appearance of the town’s public infrastructure and amenities, and encouraging home ownership, housing rehabilitation, and the creation of new, high-quality, and affordable housing stock.
As for Goal 2– maintaining an efficient and high-performing government– “The Town of Vinton endeavors to exemplify an efficient, innovative, transparent, effective and collaborative town government. A high-performing government delivers quality, desired services to its community through sound financial management, transparent, and collaborative decision-making, and efficient and effective management. To achieve these ends, the Town of Vinton seeks high caliber employees, strives to retain its workforce through development and growth opportunities, and promotes innovative ideas to address increasingly complex challenges. Exceptional customer service responsive to the needs of residents and businesses is crucial in every interaction between the Town of Vinton and the community. Town revenues and expenditures are prioritized and balanced with community values, challenges and opportunities.”
Specifics for maintaining an efficient and high-performing government include: utilizing available technology within municipal offices to improve efficient service delivery, conducting thorough organizational efficiency reviews in municipal offices and implementing changes based on results, and maintaining a structurally balanced budget to sustain service levels and maintain public facilities.
Goal 3 is self-explanatory– to continue the dynamic growth of the past several years by “aggressively pursuing economic development opportunities to enhance local retail and dining options.”
The Vinton Strategic Plan describes the town as founded in 1884, covering 3.17 square miles, with a population of 8,100 individuals in 3,500 households. Eighty-eight percent of the adult residents have a high school diploma or higher. Eighty-eight percent of the households have at least one computer; 73 percent have broadband Internet service.
The median household income in the town is $48,186. Vinton has a 12.2 percent poverty rate.
The Vinton Strategic Plan document goes on to describe Vinton as providing “small town character with urban services and amenities located nearby. The small-town atmosphere is characterized by a low crime rate; small, locally, and regionally owned businesses; and moderately priced homes. Vinton represents the ideal type of community– small enough to provide a feeling of belonging, yet progressive enough to provide the facilities, services, and conveniences that are necessary to make a community feel like home to its citizens.”
In the months since the retreat, town staff and council have worked to refine and condense the plan into what Councilman Stovall characterized as the “game plan for the next five years.”
Mayor Grose stated that the new plan builds upon previous plans “which have served us well.”
A previous vision statement adopted in 2009 described the town as both “a destination and a gateway,” with vibrant neighborhoods, a “reinvented downtown,” with an open and fully disclosed government and a “shining community spirit,” providing the “right services at the right level and price,” as a “steward of the public trust.”
The mission statement council approved in 2001, signed by then Councilman Grose, described it as “the collaborative development of values and themes by which the town can develop a road map for future efforts. The Vinton town government will provide its citizens with high quality public services that address their individual and collective needs. In partnership with the community, the Vinton town government pledges a civic stewardship that is fiscally accountable, socially responsible, and worthy of citizen trust.”
Most would agree that Town Council and staff have stuck to that vision and those promises in the years since.