Maquoketa City Council Goal Setting and Onboarding

In conjunction with the Maquoketa City Council, second-year students in the Master of Public Affairs program assisted the Council in goal setting, updating best practices for governance, and developing onboarding materials for future elected officials.  

The City of Maquoketa has a population of about 6,100 and is located in Jackson County in east-central Iowa along Highways 61 and 64. Maquoketa is a county seat and a regional leader in arts and entertainment, healthcare, historic preservation, and recreation. 

In 2019, Maquoketa passed a resolution adopting the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which establishes the community’s vision for 20 years. Since then, Maquoketa has a new mayor, three new city council members, and is in the process of hiring a City Manager. The City Council requested assistance with goal setting and establishing good governance practices, in addition to creating onboarding materials for future council members.   

The MPA team assisted the City of Maquoketa in developing an actionable achievement plan for their vision established in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan with a focus on Community Character.  These plans will be used to guide budgets as well as city and community activities and initiatives for the Maquoketa City Council.  Through surveys, interviews, and questionnaires, the MPA Team identified Community Character as an area of top priority and then facilitated a pilot strategic planning and goal setting workshop around this priority. The workshop format—a step in the strategic planning and goal setting process--can be used to identify and form a clear path to achieve future goals.

As a companion to successful strategic planning and goal implementation, the scope of the project included development of an onboarding process for newly elected city council members. This process included providing a set of documents and processes that outline key information and resources to best acclimate and prepare newly elected officials for the council’s duties and provide a general overview of the context of the municipality. This includes city council best practices on meeting format and expectations, a code of conduct, and general dynamics of local government operations. The materials should be considered living documents that can be updated to reflect the climate of the city, current projects, and models of best onboarding practices. These materials should aid in the transition from citizen and resident to elected well-informed city official.

The recommendations outlined in this report focus on an intentional approach for identifying strategic goals and practices that lead to actionable steps and outcomes. This intentional approach is found in the onboarding recommendations which provide an outline for introducing city processes and policies to newly elected city officials. The MPA Team’s final recommendations for goal setting include the development of a goal achievement/ strategic planning process, the expert facilitation of consistent goal setting workshops and the continuation of the priorities identified during the MPA Teams pilot workshop. Regarding onboarding, the MPA Team recommends the formalization of an onboarding process, the formation of an onboarding packet, conducting an overview of city policies, and participating in external city council training opportunities. Lastly the MPA Team recommends general policies that will aid the council, these include, the establishment and implementation of a council code of ethics, a system for the division of labor and best practices to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the community.