This is not about building an effective staff to meet your vision for your park master plan – this is about assembling a support team to help you implement your vision.
On several occasions, I needed a team of advisors that would help implement the park plan. I did not always get it right, but during a greenway expansion project and the acquisition of Stringer’s Ridge, I leaned on these advisors to help me stay between the guardrails. I found that I had to let my ego go out of the room because I needed people around me that were smarter than me, different than me, had different connections than me and could give me honest feedback. These advisors made all the difference in the world. If you have the right team you will have momentum and support as you try to execute. It is not always easy. One of the hardest parts for me personally, was that it usually slows the process down a little. I do not like slowing down. If you are truly allowing time for input, you must give them time to meet, discuss, think, and better understand the situation. It does pay off by making a better project.
I highly recommend creating an advisory team around specific projects. By team I do not necessarily mean formal committees with formal minutes. By team, I mean critical people that in a place to help you accomplish the mission. They are people that you can count on. They are people that are well-connected and have influence, politically and in the community. They may not attend your clean-up day. On the other hand, you will need people that want to organize and spearhead clean-up days or volunteer days. They are people that are passionate. Assembling your team is critical and you need to think about it at the beginning of your project to avoid trying to get someone on your team during a crisis.
1. Community Leaders: The formal officially recognized leaders of the neighborhood association or district.
2. Community Members / Representation: I think it is important to have another person or 2 from the neighborhood that may not be the formally appointed neighborhood president. This ensures additional representation from the community because believe it or not, not everyone might agree with the neighborhood president.
3. Elected Official from the Area: Do not underestimate the power of having the local City Council or County Commissioner from that area on your side. Go to them early and often.
4. A Potential Funder/Donor: You need a funder on your team that you bring along-side you early in the process. They can help open the door to other funders as well.
5. City Department Administrator: If you are the Park Director then who else from the City needs to know about this project? Who needs to come along side you and show support?
6. Design Professional: I found it to be extremely helpful to bounce ideas off civil engineers and landscape architects. You should be careful here not to promise work or to over exercise them. This just requires clear and transparent communication.
7. Real Estate: Depending on your skill set and your comfort with real estate and real estate jargon, you may want to have someone on your team that understands real estate. This can be tricky. I would advise you to be clear in at least two areas if you bring someone on to your team that understands real estate: 1)they are not working for a commission - this is a volunteer role; and 2) I would have them sign a confidentiality agreement (CA). This keeps everyone protected, just to make sure there is no self-dealing and that everything is transparent.
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