The following is a Prince William Living article from October 27:

A citizen-driven strategic plan is the centerpiece of the Democratic slate of candidates — Rex Parr, Mark Wolfe and Pam Sebesky — running for Manassas City Council.

 “We are committed to the strategic planning process. The first step will be to seek out and assemble a broad cross section of our community and hear what their priorities, concerns and issues are,” said Rex Parr, CEO of a local business for 38 years, and recently retired.

“Once we know what the priorities are of the diverse citizens and stakeholders in Manassas, we can begin planning for the future. It will be a combined vision of our community, with the fingerprints of every segment visible,” Parr added.

It’s been 13 years since citizens were part of the process to create the city’s strategic plan. A lot has changed in Manassas since 2003.

“What we hear from segments of our population now is that they feel like they just don’t matter. Elected officials don’t spend any time getting to know them or what their concerns are,” said Pam Sebeksy, a cardiac nurse and School Board member since 2008, now running for City Council.

Mark Wolfe, an eight-year incumbent and local small business owner, agrees. “An updated strategic plan is a necessity,” Wolfe said. “The current city strategic plan is out of date, particularly with the demographic changes we have had. It is vital, and we cannot have a functioning city without it,” he added.

The current strategic plan update in 2012 “involved seven people around a table in a restaurant for a few hours discussing a laundry list of things to be done, as recommended by city staff, “ said Parr. “The staff did the best they could, but the update didn’t include analysis of the current environment, a set of goals, or proactive outreach to the community.”

In neighboring Prince William County, a public committee of citizens and other stakeholders such as local business owners and school staff has been meeting since February to discuss how the county should grow. Manassas has no such public group.

Citizen time is allowed at certain Manassas City Council meetings. However, participating requires research to determine the appropriate dates and the courage to stand up at a podium in front of a full dais of leaders, a room full of observers, and an unknown number of viewers on the cable channel. And then speakers are limited to three minutes at the microphone, without the guarantee of follow-up by Council members.

“We all have the same interests in Manassas–we want it to be a great place to live, work and play. But not everyone has been invited to come share their visions, their needs, what they would like to see.” Sebesky said.

“We want to change that and engage those voices in a place where they will get a respectful hearing of what they want from this community. From that, we can craft a vision for what this community should look like,” Parr added.

A strategic plan provides direction to the City Council on how to govern for the future. It can contain goals in the areas of public safety, education, parks and recreation, economic development, transportation, housing, redevelopment, and government transparency, among others.

Good ideas abound in planning for A Better Manassas. After an extensive outreach to engage citizens and stakeholders, the Democrats plan to share ideas with the groups to consider, agree or disagree, and put in priority order. The candidates anticipate that there will be many other ideas that emerge during the process, and those ideas will receive equal consideration using the same process. “Once we know the priorities of our citizens and stakeholders, we can work together to build a future for everyone’s Manassas,” said Parr.

Current council member Wolfe added, “Only by electing all three Democrat candidates can this plan be realized and citizen-led goals be implemented. We have a Tea Party caucus on the City Council that is stalling Manassas City’s growth.”

“Electing Wolfe, Parr and Sebesky will remove the obstacles and move Manassas City forward,” concluded Parr.

For more information, see PamforManassas.com; RexforManassas.com; and MarkforManassas.com.