Sustainable Public Participation

Rita Harris

As Sustainable Shelby started, many of the participants were unfamiliar and a bit unsure of the process that was being used. But, as it continued to move along it proved to be a great way to get input from a wide variety of people about a broad array of concerns. In my opinion, the success of Sustainable Shelby was in the effective public participation methods that were used. A combination of methods gathered input from the public using questionnaires, phone surveys, stakeholder meetings, and hosting a Digital Congress. One of the things that this effort pointed out to me in serving as Co-Chair of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee is that the people of Shelby County really care about the community in which we live. It was very exciting and encouraging to see all the people crowded in the room at the kick-off gathering, and seeing all those that wanted to be a part of this historic undertaking. Although the committees were overflowing with eager members bursting with ideas, we all knew that whether they landed on a committee or not, they would continue advocating for what they knew needed to be done to make their communities better. Having everyone start the process with framing our work around our vision and creating a values statement helped us frame and focus our work going forward. Throughout the process there were so many people passionate about ‘their’ issue and passionate about Shelby County that it was easy to understand the success of the Sustainable Shelby Initiative. Creating a sustainable plan for our community is not one that will ever be complete, but instead will be an organic living document that continues to be edited, evaluated, and improved. The concerns and issues that were identified call us to action. Mayor Wharton’s magnificent leadership and vision have provided us with a roadmap that we can be proud of and a strategic plan that will show future generations just how interested we are about improving the environmental quality and preserving the wonderful natural resources of Shelby County.