In North Port, Florida, the State of the City is Digital

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This is a guest post by Peter Lear, city manager of North Port, Florida.

As city manager for North Port, Florida, I’m dedicated to keeping our residents informed about information that is vital to them and the city.

Our city does this in a plethora of ways — but one of the most effective ways is through my State of the City address.

Traditionally, I deliver the State of the City address at a particular event held by a local government agency, and I pair it with a slideshow. This year, for instance, I spoke at a North Port area chamber of commerce event. The address is always very well received by dignitaries and city staff.

However, only 50 people were able to see my live State of the City speech. My staff and I realized our residents were being left out of this wealth of information. Traditionally, to address this, we also post the text from the speech online for the public to read. While helpful, this hasn’t been very engaging.

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So, in 2017, we took a new step in connectivity. For the first time, we recorded the state of the city address. We also added graphics and photos that were timed with the speech, to go along with the slideshow. This turned out to be a successful way to engage with people across North Port. Our Facebook post with the video had a reach of 10,915 and garnered 4,800 views. Additionally, 52 people and groups shared the post.

In many ways, providing the recording of my speech online was a catalyst for further developing our digital engagement strategies. We realized it was important to keep abreast of new tools we can use in this age of the internet. That’s why we’ve also just introduced our first podcast entitled, “North RePort Audio.” It lives on our website and is a bite-size weekly rundown of highlights from around the city.

Between February and mid-July, there have been 571 total downloads and 46 hours of listening. From what we’ve seen, this is not something many governments have done yet.

Although we pride ourselves on our advances in the use of technology in government, we understand that not all residents are internet savvy. Because of this, my staff and I are still ensuring that we can continue to physically put information in our residents’ hands.

That’s why unlike many cities across the country, we continue to publish and distribute our quarterly newsletter, the “North RePort,” to every home in North Port, free of charge, without subscription. We make sure to post the newsletter on our website as well, for those outside of the city or who prefer to follow local news online.

Our residents are our top priority. Anything we can do to better connect them to the goings on in their city government is a big step forward.

Our city is bounding ahead in terms of technology, but at the end of the day, we just want to meet our residents where they are. Some cities do so digitally, others do it the old fashioned way with live speeches and printed text. We’ve learned that taking an all of the above approach works well for the people of North Port. And if it works for them, it works for us.

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About the Author: Peter D. Lear, CPA, CGMA, was appointed the City Manager for the City of North Port, Florida, on July 6th 2017. Prior to his appointment as City Manager, Lear served as the Finance Director for the City of North Port, beginning in January 2011.