Dubuque County Board of Supervisors have begun its first attempt at planning goals and short-term strategies for the next five years.

The board enlisted the East Central Intergovernmental Association to facilitate the planning through a series of meetings, the first of which was held last week at ECIA headquarters in Dubuque.

Supervisor Dave Baker said after the meeting that board members have discussed the need for this sort of planning frequently in recent years.

“We started on this a little bit last year, having organizations come in to give presentations before budgeting,” he said. “This is a first. We had the (countywide comprehensive) Smart Plan several years ago, but that wasn’t really county issues. That was more just land use. This is not that.”

Supervisor Ann McDonough said this strategic planning effort will be of great benefit to county residents.

“The board will take this and learn to work with an eye to the future,” she said.

McDonough said any long-term discussions are difficult with a three-person board, because a discussion between any two supervisors without appropriately published public notice creates a rolling quorum.

“It’s the only way I know to get around the structural inability to get together,” she said. “We get to actually have these conversations and learn where each other’s heads are.”

Supervisor Jay Wickham praised the opportunity to discuss opportunities and challenges outside the business that dominates the board’s regular meetings.

“It’s good that you can take a short time away from the day-to-day business to think about the future,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the discussions will always be agreeable.

Before last week’s meeting, the three supervisors submitted lists of challenges — both internal and external — to the ECIA. An item posed by McDonough was to “explore enlarging board to five members so the supervisors can work jointly on projects.”

Though McDonough insisted that idea had been brought to her by members of the public, it led Baker to staunchly defend the board’s current makeup as the most transparent, specifically because discussions have to be held in the open.

Wickham agreed in general, particularly because citizens already can force a change in board size via referendum.

With no other support, McDonough let that proposal go.

But that left the ECIA 72 other proposed strategies to choose from, categorize and eventually prioritize with the board.

The ECIA divided the suggestions into several categories. They included “quality of life,” “county operations,” “facilities and infrastructure” and “promote a sustainable environment.”

Beneath each of those, the board and the ECIA will formulate strategies.

“We want the goals to be measurable,” said ECIA Executive Director Kelley Deutmeyer. “Right now, we’re focused on what they can do in the next couple of years.”

The ECIA will take the input collected from the first session and bring it to the next strategic planning meeting, which is set for Dec. 15.

The board of supervisors will pay the ECIA $4,500 for this process. The regional organization has helmed similar planning efforts for various local governments and nonprofit organizations.