Mark Jeffers, DJ Thompson, Kathleen Ryan
Improved Internal Relationships, Economic Development, Tourism
Naturally Better (Together!)
A typical struggle for county government is the struggle to encourage collaboration across highly structured departmental silos. DJ, Mark, and I decided to challenge this status quo, embodying the county's core value of "Collaboration" and bringing new meaning to the slogan "Naturally Better."
Despite having other obligations and opportunities on our plates, we took the initiative to bridge the gaps between different county departments. We collaborated with the land department and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), working towards a unique goal. Our objective was to develop two new boat launches with a new, key feature. They would be designed to make it substantially easier for people to park their cars at one location, enjoy the river and get out at a second location without the need to move the parked car. This practical consideration seems simple but it really is a game-changer, because it goes beyond the typical amenities offered by similar facilities.
Our River Trails project really was born out of inter-departmental collaboration, and promises to make a significant (measurable) impact on the county's economic development. By improving access to the county's natural resources, these boat launches will not only serve local citizens but also attract tourists, thereby bolstering the county's economy. It will also help make the county more appealing to potential residents, augmenting the county's growth prospects.
Our collaboration strengthened our own relationships and brought the county's slogan, "Naturally Better," to life at a human level. By breaking down the barriers of typical silos, our organic collaboration will lead to a better outcome for Aitkin County. We hope our story inspires many more collaborative, cross-departmental initiatives in the future!