City embarks on 'marathon' transformation

A contract approved Wednesday is aimed at bettering city management and operations.

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WALLA WALLA -- In a move to improve quality and perhaps one day win one of the most prestigious business awards in the nation, the City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a contract with a consultant who will help officials review and improve operations.

The $30,000 contract with Baldrige Performance Excellence Program representative Paul Steel is intended to help with seven specific areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement analysis, workforce focus, operations focus and results.

Since 1988, Baldrige Award winners have included Boeing, Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., AT&T, Texas Instruments Inc., Cadillac Motor Car Division, Federal Express Corp., Xerox Corp., Motorola Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Corp.

In recent years, public agencies have been encouraged to apply for the award, with the winners including hospitals, school districts, colleges and one city: Coral Springs, Fla.

"I guess in our hopes and dreams and desires, that is the target for which to shoot, the operation level of Coral Springs, which is clearly one of the finest city operations in the United States," City Manager Nabiel Shawa said.

Numerous companies attribute considerable gains in quality and sales to the program, officials said.

Funding for the $30,000 contract will come from an unexpected windfall to general funds due to the Sales Tax Amnesty Program, which will provide the city with an additional $48,000 in sales taxes, Support Services Director Tim McCarty said.

The Baldrige Program is expected to take years, and Shawa told the Council he didn't expect the city to apply for the award earlier than 2014.

"This is a really a fascinating project, which holds great hope for transforming city management. Not over the short run, this is not an overnight process. This is a journey; it is a marathon," Shawa said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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