New Janesville city manager asks for help to fashion vision, mission statements

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

JANESVILLE--First things first.

As Mark Freitag interviewed with Janesville City Council members last summer for the city manager job, he found the council's goals online but saw no community vision statement, no mission statement and no strategic plan.

“It seemed to me the city should have those sorts of things, and the council all nodded 'Yes, we should.' … When I came on board, it was something I knew I was going to undertake," Freitag said.

Most organizations, including cities, have vision and mission statements and strategic plans, said Max Gagin, city management analyst. He is helping Freitag lead the effort.

Freitag, who started work here in December, said he doesn't know how an organization can operate without mission and vision statements and a strategic plan.

City workers have no core value statement, and that will change, too, because it is important to have core values stated, Freitag said.

Freitag has taken on the process without hiring a consultant, a step some suggested was necessary.

“Absolutely not,” Freitag said. “We're all smart enough to figure this out on our own with our own resources.

“It's important to handle it in-house, and it's important to have the city manager pushing to make it happen,” Freitag said.

Staff drafted mission and vision statements, and Freitag and Gagin this month take them on the road to three community meetings to get feedback. The first meeting is Wednesday.

The drafts were created with as staff discussed why people choose to live and work here, Freitag said.

They choose to live here because Janesville is a nice-sized community. There are many things to do, and there is low crime, he said.

“It's a place where you want to do business, raise a family, come and recreate,” Freitag said.

“We thought about that 'community of choice,'” he said. “People choose to come.”

The draft vision statement?

“Wisconsin's Park Place: The community of choice for realizing life's opportunities.”

“It kind of resonated with the group," Freitag said.

So far, Freitag said, he's pleased with the reaction from employees involved in the process.

“I think they all see the value of where we're going to take this,” Freitag said.

The draft mission statement is: “To innovatively provide effective municipal services that are responsive to the needs of residents, businesses and visitors and delivered in a reliable, efficient manner in order to sustain Janesville as the community of choice.”

Freitag is asking city residents if they agree with the draft statements or if they can be improved. Freitag also will seek input from the business community.

“It will be interesting to see who comes and how many come,” Freitag said.

“The key point is, it's important to engage the community.”

Meanwhile, staff will develop strategic goals and objectives to work toward that visions and will complete an overall strategic plan to be finished next year.

Freitag plans to bring the vision and mission statements to the city council in May.

The effort should not be confused with the city's ongoing riverfront strategy sessions, but the results of those sessions likely will be listed in the strategic plan.

Staff in July will be poised to begin work on the 2015 budget and could use the strategic plan to help decide how to allocate money, Freitag said.

“It's something that helps guide the city on how they prioritize work,” Freitag said.


JANESVILLE--Vision statements are short phrases or sentences that convey a community's hopes and dreams—what a city would like in a perfect world, according to a Janesville city memo.

They clarify the beliefs and governing principles of the community.

According to the memo, most vision statements are:

-- Understood and shared by members of the community.

-- Broad enough to include a variety of local perspectives.

-- Inspiring and uplifting to everyone involved.

-- Generally short enough to fit on a T-shirt.

A mission statement is action oriented and describes what the organization is going to do and why it's going to do that.

A vision statements should inspire people to dream. A mission statement should inspire people to action.

Janesville's draft community vision statement is:

“Wisconsin's Park Place: the community of choice for realizing life's opportunities.”

Its draft organizational mission statement is:

“To innovatively provide effective municipal services that are responsive to the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors and delivered in a reliable, efficient manner in order to sustain Janesville as the community of choice.”

Examples of vision and mission statements in communities:


-- Vision statement: “The gem of the Rock River Valley, embracing sustainable public policy, service delivery and development in ways that protect the natural and built environment, enhance economic competitiveness and create a high quality living experience for current and future generations."

-- Mission statement: “The city of Beloit celebrates its proud heritage, diverse culture, entrepreneurial spirit and stewardship of a high quality of life; employing sustainable practices to continue its resurgence as the gem of the Rock River Valley.”


-- Vision statement: “Eau Claire will be a healthy, vibrant, and productive community of exceptional natural beauty."

-- Mission statement: “It is our mission to provide for the common good and deliver services essential for a safe, sustainable and engaged community."


-- Vision statement: “Waukesha is to become the No. 1 rated Best Small City in America by 2018.”

-- Mission statement: “Waukesha is a progressive leader in providing a high quality of life at a conservative price.”

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