City of Talent measures its human capabilities

TALENT — More communication with residents and a greater focus on economic and entrepreneurial efforts were among the needs city leaders found when they conducted a "360 assessment" of themselves earlier this month.

Participants also determined that city residents had the capability to deal with civic problems and that more young people should serve on city committees.

The City Council borrowed a page from private industry when it conducted the assessment in place of another goal-setting session. Full circle, or 360, assessments have become popular in work environments for personnel evaluations. Everyone who has contact with an employee — supervisors, subordinates, peers — rate his performance.

Overall, the city was rated between a three and a four on a five-point scale for community outlook. The city's score fell between ratings characterized as "you're well on your way, but don't get complacent" and "so-so — could go either way," said City Manager Betty Wheeler, who oversaw the exercise.

The assessment, held in early March, included the council, department heads, urban renewal agency and city committee members representing the public. The 18 participants completed a questionnaire developed by the Oregon Downtown Development Association before the meeting.

"The council was kind of tired (of goal setting)," said member Lynn Perkins. "This was more a broard perspective of how we see ourselves in the community."

Survey categories included attitude, local capacity, visioning, leadership and empowerment, social and interpersonal actions, resources and infrastructure, economics and entrepreneurship.

"The (survey) gave large weight to whether you were promoting industry," said Traffic Safety and Transportation Commission member Jim Bradley. "We went through businesses that worked out nicely for us."

Promotion of infrastructure available for businesses and greater visibility with Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. were raised as ways to increase economic vitality.

Both Perkins and Wheeler said the session indicated a greater need to reach out to the community.

"We need to work on inclusion with our constituents," said Perkins. "It's a little bit of PR work, but really it's communication: making sure people know what's going on and what the city is doing."

"There were areas where people didn't have a good understanding of what was going on," said Wheeler.

Involvement of younger people on boards and commissions when they have family and work obligations emerged as a challenge, said Bradley. But the participants also felt the city had the ability to deal with challenges.

"Everyone is pretty pleased with the road improvement projects created in the past several years," said Bradley.

"It was really nice to kind of hang out and talk about things," said Perkins. "In the council, you're kind of pawing through the issues."

Bradley appreciated that so many city constituents were together in one session.

"That we did the process is indicative of the fact that Talent is working well," said Bradley. "People do have disagreements, but we work them out and resolve them and move on."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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