Brian Winningham, a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army, began with the City of Dickinson on Nov. 30, 2020, and has publicly advocated during several public meetings and interviews that he is dedicated to keeping the city’s best interests intact as well as improving quality of life for all residents.
“Our city is postured to create great value for our citizens and I truly believe we are living in a great place,” Winningham said. “(We) share our vision to be the ‘First Choice for families, great choice for opportunity’ and our mission to 'Celebrate small town values, promoting opportunity and enhancing quality of place through community partnerships and exceptional public services.'”
After recovering from one of the most drastic economic impacted years in the entire United States, Winningham said that the city’s key to success for 2021 is to look at reducing operational spending without disrupting city services.
“One of the ways to increase service and reduce costs is through better training. If we can find training opportunities for staff we can save service costs by increasing our people’s skills and that will allow faster decision making and better service delivery,” he said, explaining, “It takes time to train and it does add cost, however in the long run a better trained person provides better service. Ultimately, I believe in paying people more, but only after we shape the environment for them to succeed. Our success is measured in ‘exceptional public service,’ if we miss the mark we all suffer.”
The city’s budget is always thoroughly examined, Winningham continued.
“We take great pride in knowing we have an amazing team of staff that meticulously and professionally tracks every citizen dollar the city stewards. As the city administrator, I am also the city auditor, so every line of the budget is critical to maintain,” Winningham remarked. “I have been in places managing much great budgets but the approach is always the same and I ask the same fundamental questions. Does the city have a requirement to support the citizen? And will we need to spend money to accomplish the requirement? Spending dollars also means work production and every hour of time paid to our city workers should be part of how we measure spending. We must be productive and steward our citizens' money.
“We have a very thorough budget process and I am reviewing every line of every department budget to cut costs and ensure we are meeting the needs of the citizens, that is my offer to our city commission and to me that is a ‘No Fail’ mission.”
As far as ordinances that the city will look at this year, Winningham said that they are reviewing its alcohol code and will also reexamine the City Code.
Winningham noted that the City of Dickinson has spent the last several years making improvements to its water, sewer and street infrastructure as well as building a “world class” Public Works Facility and the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center. As the city looks to update its 2035 Comprehensive Plan this year, Winningham said that they will look at 21 different data points to “gage and prioritize” the Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
“The CIP process provides scoring priorities that we can offer to the (Dickinson) City Commission for approval as budget infrastructure budget items that we can move forward over the next four years,” he said, adding, “One of the key data points will come from the citizens’ needs and requests for services; we are on a mission to enhance quality of place, but we also must sustain our quality of place now. Our major road networks need improvement and better traffic flow and we are in a great position to build and sustain as we grow in the near future.”
In the first part of the Voices of Dickinson series, we surveyed more than 50 residents in Dickinson on education and health. With Dickinson ranking among the lowest in North Dakota in testing scores, 13% of residents said they were “very dissatisfied,” 46% were “dissatisfied,” 23% responded with “no answer,” 13% were “satisfied” and 5% were “very satisfied.” Though classrooms and students were heavily impacted by virtual learning in 2020, Winningham noted that there are different ways for a school to succeed academically.
“Although SAT/ACT scores provide a valuable measure for potential, each individual student needs to work hard to keep good grades throughout high school and I believe that will be the best chance at being accepted at the next level. It will never hurt to take an SAT/ACT preparation course, as it has been proven that test scores can be improved, but your four years in high school cannot be redone,” he said.
Though Winningham is new to the area, he said that during this “very scary and violent time” Dickinson is one of the safer places he’s lived in compared to other areas in the nation that are shut down and dealing with setbacks. Dickinson has that small town vibe where residents care about one another and the city is “professionally postured to respond to anyone willing to do harm to our citizens,” he added.
With the recent administration reorganization of the Dickinson Police Department, Winningham noted in a previous article that even though the city has a low crime rate, it’s important to continue building up its services to support the community down the road.
“Dickinson should be focused on Dickinson and we are (a) great city. Our law enforcement is very dedicated to community policing standards and we have a world class professional police department,” he said. “One of the great intangibles, behind the scenes (is the) ways our police fight crime.”
In the second Voices of Dickinson article that gave a break-down of crime, respondents were asked how they think Dickinson and Stark County law enforcement can reduce crime levels. An overwhelming majority of 44% highlighted that “stronger prosecution and sentencing” was the key issue. Highlighting the many community engagement projects Dickinson Police Officers participate in and attend, Winningham said it was a concerted effort to be preemptive rather than reactionary.
“You can almost weekly count on finding an event that involves our department and our teams actively engaging the public in open, relevant and cooperative ways. We are so proud of our ‘Rough Rider Country’ Police Department,” he added.
In the final part of this five-part series, we will feature remarks from Mayor Scott Decker.