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Another Voice: Seven principles define Town Board’s mission

By Mike Sherry

On Jan. 1 a “new board” took office in the Town of Orchard Park promising to be strategic and innovative. The board is new in the sense that two of its three members were elected for the first time. One of the first decisions we made was to implement an annual State of Orchard Park address in which we would not only assess our municipality’s present and future, but articulate a vision and the accompanying principles by which decisions and actions of the board would be undertaken.

In a time when big government seems so divisive and politics so polarizing, we recognized that at least at the local level politicians and government should work to unite and nurture a sense of community.

Of first importance we quickly settled upon a vision of the board as servant-leaders, not sovereigns. From that vision sprang, almost naturally, seven words or principles – values really – to which we committed ourselves as the norm for our public service. I use the word “for” in a twofold sense. First, they function as the standard by which we consider in advance the decisions and actions we face. But they are also, secondly, the criteria by which we intend to further empower the community to assess and hold us accountable for our decisions and actions. So what are they?

We pledged to provide the kind of leadership that is responsive to the community as our superior, servicing our citizens’ will and not our own; to promote the sense and well-being of our community by creating vehicles for people to express and act on their concerns and interests, actively working with and partnering with them; to support our employees in a climate of respect, trust and appreciation; to enhance performance by promoting a culture that motivates and enables our employees; to be transparent through our efforts to release information, facilitate feedback and engage our residents; to be accountable by assessing and reporting on performance activities, progress and resource allocation; and to practice collaboration by sharing resources and services with a view to achieving more efficient and effective outcomes.

There is, of course, nothing novel in these seven words in and of themselves. Any novelty resides, rather, in our strategic identification and assiduous focusing in upon them as the embodiment of our vision, source of our inspiration, and standard of our service. In their light we have already implemented not only the State of Orchard Park address, but three task forces to address pressing needs – senior services, government efficiencies and community activities center and department assessments, and we have begun to develop strategic plans at the department level.

Politicians should not only utter words; they should stand or fall upon them.

Mike Sherry is a member of the Orchard Park Town Board.