In 1983, the Board of Commissioners recognized that Washington County government was facing a serious challenge. That challenge was to preserve and build upon the County's quality of life while responding to phenomenal population growth and increasing demand for County services.
Rapid population growth led to an accelerated demand for County services at a level that would be more typically provided by and expected from established cities-not a "traditional" county government. At the same time, due to the limits placed on traditional county funding sources, it was evident that limited resources would be available to meet this increased demand. Further, as the demand for city-type services in the unincorporated area increased, County government was facing the prospect of requiring city taxpayers to subsidize the provision of those services.
In response to these challenges, the Board adopted the County 2000 Plan in 1986. The original Plan identified the County's fundamental approaches to its service delivery roles, principles and priorities, and was designed to be a blueprint for the development and implementation of County policies, programs, and operations. The Plan was updated in 1990 and 1993. These updates substantively reinforced the original document with refinements based on emerging issues and service priorities.
As part of the "next generation" of County 2000 updates, the Board of Commissioners in 2000 set in motion a series of conversations about what makes this a great place to live, work and do business, and posed the question, "What will it take to assure we sustain and enhance the valued aspects of our communities?" The project, termed VisionWest, included unprecedented community involvement, eight active issue teams, and the development of informative, defining and creative issue papers. VisionWest was intended to take a broad and engaging look at the community through the unique perspectives of public, private, nonprofit, and faith-based stakeholders.
Along the way, connections were strengthened among many different sectors and organizations and a strong desire was expressed to work together more consistently and effectively. This effort led to the incorporation of the nonprofit organization, Vision Action Network, that works across organizations and sectors to identify, plan, and mobilize diverse resources around critical community concerns. Its creation is based on the premise that addressing community needs requires the pooling of resources and passions — across organizations and sectors — to coordinate good works and do what otherwise would not get done.