With the final draft of the Clark County Strategic Plan scheduled for distribution next week, Dr. Wesley Kluck recently talked about the highlights of the plan.
Kluck and Dr. Alan Wright are co-chairmen of the strategic planning committee. The plan was written by interested citizens of the county, and focuses on seven distinct areas for improvement: Education, economic development, leadership, tourism, health care and housing. Subcommittees were formed to examine each issue and the goals in each area. Specific steps to attain those goals were developed.
Each subcommittee appointed leaders, or co-chairmen, to make the process easier. “The co-chairmen already have copies of the plan,” Kluck said.
They, along with Clark County Judge Ron Daniell and Arkadelphia City Manager Jimmy Bolt, reviewed the plan and found there were no major problems or conflicts in it.
The plan, which includes nearly 50 pages, lists 40 goals for the county and 193 action steps to attain those goals. The economic development section has the most goals and action steps, with 12 and 57 respectively. But the number of goals does not necessarily reflect the number of action steps, Kluck said.
For example, the tourism division includes seven goals and 48 action steps, and the housing division of the plan lists six goals and 29 action steps. The education section also lists six goals, with 27 action steps. The health section of the plan lists five goals and 16 action steps, and the leadership division has four goals with 16 action steps.
Among the “high points” of the tourism section of the plan, Kluck said, are to better coordinate activities, such as holding festivals during the same weekend as the triathlon so the events can be promoted together. The tourism plan also includes merging activities of the two local universities with community events.
Another aspect of the tourism section is the possible development of an area known as the Ouachita Bluff, Kluck said. “It’s a spectacular view from there.”
In the economic development division, one goal is to improve the entrances to our cities, to make them more attractive, Kluck said. “We’ll be looking into the marketing of our county.” Another under-used resource will be the development of more industries centered around timber and wood products, he said. “We’re mainly forest in this county. There’s lots of opportunities there.”
The housing section of the plan calls for a complete market study of housing in the county. “We don’t know what is needed,” he said. Affordable housing is always a major need, he said, but “no one seems to know what affordable means.”
The education subcommittee came up with some “unique ways to advance public education,” Kluck said. Goals in that section also include ways to improve the area’s labor force and assure educational opportunities to very young children in pre-kindergarten programs.
The leadership plan includes several ideas on training leaders for the future, Kluck said, including how to “better engage current residents as leaders in the community.”
The health care subcommittee’s plan focuses on coordinating available resources and providing programs to areas of the county that don’t have ready access to health care, Kluck said.
The next community-wide meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 26 in the McBeth Recital Hall at Ouachita Baptist University. The meeting is expected to last one to one and a half hours.
Copies of the plan will be handed out during the meeting, Kluck said. “We’re not going to read the plan to everyone.” Instead, the chairmen of the subcommittees will present the highlights and overview of their plans and answer questions.
“This is the culmination of 15 months of work” by hundreds of people, Kluck said. After the presentation, those in attendance will be asked to approve the plan. “We will ask everyone to endorse the plan.”
After that, the meeting will focus on implementation of the plan, and how the chairmen and subcommittee chairmen will continue to inform the public of the progress of the plan. “We want the people to hold us accountable and make sure we do what we said we’d do,” Kluck said.
Another community-wide meeting will be held next month, to “officially celebrate” the final plan, and to help boost morale. “It will be a time for people to be positive,” he said. “We want to keep the momentum going and keep moving forward.”