They are evaluating themselves?

by April Scheinoha

    The results are in. The Thief River Falls City Council learned the results of its performance evaluation of itself at its meeting Tuesday, May 2.
    Consultant Michelle Landsverk facilitated the performance evaluation. She conducted one-on-one interviews with each council member about the job performance of the council as a whole. They were asked about such things as the council’s greatest strengths, how to improve the council, how the council handles conflict, whether the council was focusing on the right things, whether its current structure should continue, and what things city staff can do to make the council’s job more effective.
    Landsverk noted there was no common theme in terms of the council’s greatest strength. However, council members referred to the council’s diversity, partnerships with the county and school district, Mayor Brian Holmer’s leadership, and the council’s common goal of working toward a better Thief River Falls.
    However, a common theme was found when it came to needed improvements. It was communication. Landsverk referred to several subtopics, including providing more information to employees and showing them more compassion and respect. More respectful communication between council members and more communication, in general, between them were also listed.
    In terms of handling conflict, most council members answered that the council doesn’t handle conflict well. However, at least one council member noted that the situation has improved over the last couple of years. Personal attacks and a lack of understanding the inner workings of the city were listed.
    Almost all of the council members said the council was focusing on the right things. Some felt, though, that sometimes the council focused on the small things. Yet, it was also cited that the small issues may be important to the particular council member addressing the matter and that person’s constituents if it was brought up in the first place.
    Landsverk indicated that council members had mixed reactions to the structure of the council and its committees. She said most reported committee meetings were functioning well, but some referred to conflict. At least one person indicated committee meetings were controversial, committee members hold grudges, and some committee meetings get off track. Answers were varied over whether committees should still supervise department leaders. Landsverk said one committee chairperson indicated that the complaints were out of control and affecting the individual’s personal life.
    Council members were also split about things staff can do to help the council work effectively. Some said staff were already doing what they could and the council should listen more to staff. At least one council member indicated that staff needed to understand the council had the big picture view of what was best for the city. There was also a reference to staff needing to realize the council manages taxpayers’ money and needs to run the city effectively at the least cost.
    Other things mentioned during the performance evaluation included:
    • There seem to be vendettas against certain city departments
    • More discussion is needed at the committee level, so issues could be sorted out before the council meeting
    • More respect is needed from everyone
    • Meetings need to be more accessible to the public
    • The city should follow the city of Crookston’s city structure, holding a Ways and Means Committee meeting before Committee of the Whole meetings
    • The public isn’t complaining about the council like it had in the past