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  • David A.F. Sweet

Work on Strategic Planning Helps Guide Lake Forest into the Future

By David A. F. Sweet In Lake Forest, the strategic-planning process is an opportunity to think about the future and chart the City’s course for the next five years. The last strategic plan was developed with community input in 2017. Since those discussions, the world has endured a pandemic, Lake Forest welcomed many new families and businesses, and a new Mayor and three new aldermen were seated in 2023. Assistant City Manager George Issakoo is leading the latest strategic-planning process, which launched in 2023. Lake Forest Love asked him how this process will differ from 2017, why community input is crucial and more. What are the benefits of discussing and implementing a strategic plan?

Cities set their priorities annually during their budget processes, which is a useful tool from an operational standpoint, but also as a matter of public policy and transparency.  It allows the public to understand where the City is committing its time and resources year-to-year.

The City of Lake Forest benefits from strategic planning.

Strategic plans, on the other hand, allow cities to set their vision and goals on a much longer time horizon (three-to-five years).  The process allows the City’s elected leaders, the public, business community, and other stakeholders an opportunity to step back and think about what they find most important about their community, how to preserve and enhance those areas, and to consider where they are headed in the future. That process is critical for providing a collective voice and buy-in on the projects and initiatives the City enacts.  From a staff perspective, as stewards of this wonderful City, this process provides the parameters and guideposts we need to bring useful and actionable recommendations to our elected leadership day to day and month to month.

How will this planning process be different from the one in 2017?

I think it is important for us to honor the past while also considering the future and the natural changes experienced in the City over the last few years.  Residents that have been part of the strategic planning process in the past can expect to see some similar elements, but we will also look to offer more public engagement opportunities, including online engagement options to increase interaction for individuals that might not have been able to take part otherwise.

Strategic-planning sessions let residents share their thoughts.

How important is involving the community in this process?


Critically important.  As many know, the strategic -planning process began last summer with a community-wide survey to gather opinions on why people come to Lake Forest, and why they stay or return. We look forward to continuing with community involvement in the engagement sessions planned for the Strategic Planning Process to help establish goals for the next five years.

How important is having this larger vision of a long-term plan when addressing a crisis that needs quick attention?

Addressing a crisis is always a challenge and case by case, but knowing what the City values and what the collective mission is, the plan provides a critical starting point and foundation for difficult decisions that need to be made.


What stories can you share from what's happened so far to show the advantages of putting together a strategic plan?

Connecting to my previous point on budgets as an annual tool, the City has historically tied annual goals in each department budget to a specific Strategic Plan Focus Area.  This process will continue with the new plan for the Fiscal Year 2026 budget process.  I believe this is a great example of how we tie our work to the City’s long-term vision.

How can residents get involved?


Participate in upcoming community engagement sessions, both online and in-person:

·     Online Community Engagement Session #1 (Virtual): Tuesday, April 30 at 3 p.m. 

·     In-Person Community Workshop: Wednesday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Gorton Center

·     Online Community Engagement Session #2 (Virtual): Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. 


Find additional information on the Strategic Plan webpage.


Does the City Council vote on the plan?

Members of the City Council will vote to adopt the final plan, as they have done in the past.


How will residents find out what's in the approved plan?

The City of Lake Forest will use all available platforms to communicate with the public throughout the process and of course will do so with the final adopted plan. The current plan can be found on the City’s website and will be updated once the process is complete.





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