• June 2019

Public sector leadership requires long-term vision

By Debra Owen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

This issue of Chamber News is focused on transitioning leadership through an intentional succession plan. Hardly anything that occurs within a business is more important than a high-level executive leadership transition. By the nature of the role, a new senior leader will significantly influence the course of a business and the lives of those employed by the organization.

...long-term planning for the well-being of the residents of Sioux Falls

In government, the transition of leadership occurs through elections, but the transitioning of new leadership is equally as significant for both the public and the private sectors. Last spring, our fair city elected Mayor Paul TenHaken, who oft described his leadership style prior to the election as a collaborator. With his first year behind him, Mayor TenHaken shared his vision and plan for our city at his state of the city address and true to his word, his plan capitalizes on his ability to collaborate with community leaders.

Mayor TenHaken began his address with a plan for unifying the branding identity of the city – both public and private. One city, one community and one Sioux Falls.

The TenHaken administration will be actively working to resolve the high cost of addiction and mental illness in our community which effects local government – city and county – our health systems, our schools and employers. His plan includes providing support for drug rehabilitation and to reduce drug related crimes through a larger initiative lead by the Sioux Falls Leadership Council (SFLC). The work of the SFLC will include a Triage Center located in the old Falls Community Health Clinic building. The SFLC will include members of the city, county, health systems, education sector and the business community. Community leaders coming together to solve real world problems in real time.

Another key initiative is accessible housing and our Mayor has convened a housing summit to engage community leaders to help provide answers that address residential needs. In addition, his administration will be seeking to ensure our public infrastructure is sound and equipped to serve our ever growing city for decades.

Lastly, the Mayor made a commitment to complete the renovations at our downtown State Theatre. This goal will require him to employ his collaboration super-powers once again, but if you have gotten this far in the column, you will know this man has skills and he will employ them for the betterment of our community.

Mayor TenHaken builds on the legacy of previous city leaders. We all enjoy our river greenway trail system. Mayors Munson and Hanson were both pivotal in making this gem materialize through intentional budget planning over two decades.

We also task our city leaders with ensuring our city's infrastructure projects are sound and able to meet the needs of the growing metro area. These aren't flashy projects but critical to the health and welfare of our economy and our residents.

The topic of intentional leadership decisions caused me to reflect on former Mayor Munson's decision in 1996 to raise the river levees to prevent future flooding with a $22M bond. At the time, Munson chose to commit city funds to complete the levees without having the future promised federal funds in hand. The decision at the time was met with mixed reviews. This year's flooding proved Munson made the right decision. Had he not, our city would have suffered. His commitment to protecting our community was intentional as he sought to leave the city in better shape for his successor. (By the way, the federal government did come through and the city was reimbursed.)

Munson and the levees are just one example of long-term planning for the well-being of the residents of Sioux Falls. Mayor TenHaken has also demonstrated this skill when his administration acted with urgency and introduced legislation to help families transition out of their water inundated homes to higher ground. This was the right thing to do, as it is foreseeable that the flood waters will return in a not too distant spring.

Through the thoughtful, intentional leadership decisions of our elected city leaders, our city is thriving, growing at a level that is the envy of the Midwest. I leave you with a quote from our new Mayor who has already proven his skills of bringing our community together, committed to serving each other.

"Operating as a thriving city requires functioning as a community, that is, the coming together of city leaders, counties, neighboring communities, state leaders, local organizations and private citizens. Sioux Falls succeeds when we remove barriers, eliminate silos, and work together to take care of our citizens and set the stage for our city's future."

Now that's leadership, intentional leadership.

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