Fresh off his first 90 days as Savannah’s new City Manager, Rob Hernandez said on Wednesday during the Savannah Downtown Business Association luncheon that his top priority remains developing a long term strategic plan for the Savannah community that can help guide the city into the coming years.
“… My number one priority is to bring (City Council) together and create a long term vision for what this community is going to look like in five years and in 25 years,” he said, garnering a round of applause from the audience.
Once the plan is developed, Hernandez said everything that is done in the organization, from each dollar spent to the smallest activity must be connected to furthering the strategic outcome and vision.
“I’m not saying this has happened in Savannah, but the days are over when you can just show up to work and do the same thing over and over again and not really know why you’re doing it,” he said.
“Everything, every activity, every dollar and every person must be connected to that long term strategic outcome… Tell me where you want to be and what success looks like and then it’s my job to hopefully get us there.”
Public safety also tops Hernandez’s list, citing his pledge to give Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin the resources he needs to maintain the police force and find a solution to the city’s gun problem.
“The solution for Savannah to deal with gun violence must be our own solution. It can’t be the same solution that was implementing in Boston or Newark, New Jersey or Dallas. It has to be something that is unique to Savannah,” he said.
Other top priorities for his office include, gathering more feedback from communities and business leaders; Finding a solution to lower the city’s poverty rate and creating a new cohesive Savannah brand.
“(Savannah) is a great place to live, to retire and a great place to start a business and that’s the message we need to send across the entire country,” he said.
“… We are competing, just like you’re competing with other businesses in your industry, we’re competing with other cities and so we need to constantly refine and update our brand and message in order for us to be successful against the communities like Charleston and Jacksonville.”
Addressing the city’s old infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, outdated city buildings and technology is also a concern for Hernandez, who announced that an external auditor would be coming in to assess the entire water billing operation.
“Let me assure you that we’re going to fix it and we’re going to make it up to you. I believe that all of you deserve a high level of service in any service that is received from the city,” he said, adding that monthly, instead of bi-monthly, water bills is also on his to-do list.
“… Certainly we owe it to you to provide the highest level of service and we’re going to do that.”