Fort Smith administrators talk about community engagement
FORT SMITH – The city is looking for better ways to keep residents up to date with what it is doing and to build stronger relationships with them.
The city’s board of directors discussed the creation of a community engagement program during its study session on April 27.
Director Jarred Rego presented a draft plan. He said the city government needs a wider and deeper connection with residents because too many people are disconnected from city operations.
Mayor George McGill, during a workshop with council last week, stressed the need for the city to communicate clearly on “difficult technical issues” to help residents understand the issues and council decisions.
City administrator Carl Geffken said he believes elements of the program should be included in a communications plan that the city administration is developing. The plan would provide information on the city’s operations and the benefits of living, working and coming to the city.
Rego’s proposed community engagement program would meet monthly with city directors, department heads and administrative staff. The meetings would have a more open format than regular directors’ meetings and allow those involved to discuss the “how and why” of what city officials are working on, among other things.
“This is the opportunity to highlight upcoming job opportunities,” Rego said. “And I also think there is merit, on a quarterly basis, in making it a little less formal, having some sort of social gathering in hubs and also reaching out in the corporate space for specific company public meetings. “
Rego’s suggestions included the city’s work with his county government counterparts to help spread messages, create a monthly podcast, make regular visits to schools, including colleges, and promote the city’s efforts via traditional and social media.
Rego said the desired outcome is to get more residents to sit on boards, commissions and other programs that could help the city move forward.
“And I think the way we’re going to connect and engage with people gives them these opportunities to connect more broadly,” Rego said.
Rego acknowledged that the project was not a “silver bullet” that would instantly alleviate the city’s communication problems.
Director Neal Martin said he wants people to get to know their elected officials. He wants the communication plan to include speeches for city directors of clubs and organizations.
“We are the ones who make the decisions that affect their lives,” said Martin.
Warden Lavon Morton supported Martin’s suggestion and would like the city to hold two neighborhood meetings with residents each quarter. However, the key would be to publicize the meetings.
“I agree with Director Martin that there are a lot of people who don’t know who they are, and there are a lot of people who don’t pay any attention to what’s going on in the city unless they are. ‘have a problem, “Morton said. “And that’s okay. You want them to vote, though. You want them to participate in the elections that are important to the city.”
In one look
Fort Smith had an estimated population of 87,891 as of July 1, 2019.
Source: United States Census Bureau