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Town staff gears up for performance excellence award journey

The Longboat Key Town Commission planning retreat included a presentation about how the town will progress toward the performance-based award.

Through increased training and a cohesive effort between all departments, Town Manager Howard Tipton hopes to push the town toward the Florida Governor Governor's Sterling Award.
Through increased training and a cohesive effort between all departments, Town Manager Howard Tipton hopes to push the town toward the Florida Governor Governor's Sterling Award.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
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As the town moves into 2024, one of the major behind-the-scenes efforts will be the start of the Sterling journey. 

At the Longboat Key Town Commission’s Nov. 13 planning retreat, Stratex Solutions Co-Founder and President Raina Knox presented to commissioners the framework that will guide the town’s Sterling journey going forward. 

The Governor’s Sterling Award is based on the national Baldrige Criteria that assesses organizations on performance excellence. 

Stratex Solutions was chosen by town staff as a consultant to guide the town as it embarks on the beginning of the Sterling process. 

“You have a tremendous amount of work that’s already been done,” Knox told commissioners. “We’re not starting it over, we’re not going to ask you to go backwards. What we’re going to do is integrate the work that you have already done, and we’re going to pull it into the Stratex strategic planning framework.”

She pointed to the town’s citizen and employee surveys that showed “great” results and will be key inputs moving forward in the process. 

The goal of the Sterling process, she said, is to help an organization get to the “next level,” under the assumption that no matter how good an organization is, it can continue to get better. 

“We’re starting from a good place, but we want to get better, and that’s the commitment. We want to be more systemic and systematic in the way we approach things,” Town Manager Howard Tipton said. 

Knox said Stratex’s strategic planning framework isn’t far from where the town was already at with its long-term strategic plan, which looks out three to five years.

Taking it to the next level, she said as an example, would be to rewrite some of the objective statements so that specific metrics can be reached, such as getting employee satisfaction to a certain percentage. 

Town staff in all departments will be the main drivers of the journey, according to both Knox and Tipton. A big part of the training involved, Tipton said, is to hone in on an understanding that everyone’s job is a part of a greater good, and for employees to be more self-aware of their role in the organization.

The Town Commission’s role is to focus on strategic discussions around goals and objectives. 

The recent major step the town took toward this goal was having employees trained as Sterling examiners. Support Services Director Carolyn Brown, Finance Director Sue Smith and IT Director Jason Keen are the town’s trained examiners. 

“It’s wonderful to have in-house experts, because they can help our own organization get better and then kind of help us compare ourselves to others,” Tipton said.

Longboat Key’s town motto reads “Premier Community, Exceptional Service,” and it’s the latter part of this motto that Tipton said will become a stronger part of the process. 

“Exceptional can’t be anything that’s based on (an) individual,” Tipton said. “We need to have a system of exceptional service.”

The next step for the town is an employee development program rolling out in 2024. The program, according to Tipton, has an increased commitment to training and continued growth. There’s also a focus on leadership training and mentoring programs. 

Tipton was a part of the Orange County Clerk of the Courts when the organization won a Sterling award in 2008. He said the journey was “transformative” for the organization, and is something he’s looking forward to in Longboat. 

Overall, Tipton said it’s a culture shift in the process. There is a physical award to be earned, but that’s not what it’s all about, according to Tipton. 

“It’s about making sure that we are positioning ourselves for excellence in everything we do,” he said. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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