According to Catherine Bennett --a public service associate from Carl Vinson Institute of Government who facilitated for the group -- the session is about prioritizing, setting goals, and discussing hot topics for the city as heard from the community and staff.
"It is an opportunity to bring some of the issues and concerns of community forward," she said. "What is really nice for mayor and council to have spend an entire day with their staff and have the opportunity to say 'Okay, we heard what they need, we heard what their concerns are, we heard their priorities. Now let's see if we can come up with some goals that reflect the staff's direction and the things they need to serve to the citizen'."
According to Mayor Santini, "It's also real helpful to us as a council to be able to sit down like we did primarily this [Saturday] morning to talk about the issues that are going to be important to the city of Cartersville from the next one to five years. On everyone's mind, jobs is the number one priority. We spent some time talking about the importance of recruiting and retaining industry."
The group also discussed a sign ordinance, billboards on Interstate I-75, continued renovation of parks and facilities, a wellness program, a prescription drug service, municipal court operation decisions, the establishment of crime mapping, and various other items or suggestions.
"These are always informal; we never take official votes in retreats," Bennett said. "We try to come to consensus on some things which is different from taking the vote ... What they are trying to do is get a feel for how people feel: Do you need more information to make a decision? Is this something you feel strongly against? Support? Therefore, these types of retreats put them in a better position to make some decisions at the city council meetings."
"Cartersville is always very pro-active in their government," she said. "They also get along so very well. They're professional, their meetings are well run ... You don't always get that. So what's here is very special."
"In a lot of communities they don't have the dynamic among council where everyone gets along," Santini said. "There's a lot of joking around the table. There's no personal attacks. We may not always agree but its refreshing to remember how fortunate we are to have a community and council where everybody gets along and respects everybody's opinion.
"This is the fifth time I've gone through this, but every time I come away really inspired and enthusiastic about the direction the city of Cartersville is going."