The best way to a Laurinburg employee’s heart is through the worker’s stomach.
That appears to be the thinking of the newly formed Laurinburg Employee Advisory Committee, which has recommended the city hold an employee appreciation cookout on Oct. 18.
City council signed off on the idea — the first formal recommendation proposed by the advisory committee that was formed to improve employee morale and to open a direct line of communication between employees and city management.
City Manager Ed Burchins said while the city has held similar events, this one will include one different feature thanks to feedback from the advisory committee.
“In the past we had certain departments that did not close, so those people did not get to participate. It’s not a great morale enhancer if a third of your employees can’t come,” Burchins said.
For this year’s employee appreciation cookout, all city employees outside of those involved in critical services like emergency dispatch and fire fighting will be allowed to close their offices to attend.
“This was a good step forward to letting employees have some say so, and in showing them that council is acknowledging what they are doing,” Burchins said.
Councilman Curtis Leak suggested that the cookout include retirees from the city.
“I have heard from some (retirees) that they would like to be involved more,” Leak said during a city council agenda workshop this week.
The advisory committee had its inaugural meeting on Aug. 23 with each of its 13 members (14 including Burchins) in attendance.
“There was excellent turnout and participation, and a lot of important questions were asked,” Burchins said. “There was a lot of excitement in the room, and we learned that city employees love their jobs, and regard their co-workers as family.”
Lasting approximately two hours, the meeting began with the employee representatives being asked to express “what they would like to see come out of the committee,” Burchins said.
One area where Burchins expects employee feedback received via the advisory committee to be especially important is in the purchasing of equipment.
“We invest a lot of money in equipment and sometimes the employees don’t have a chance to have their say in what is being bought … and we hope to try to get things like that out on the table more often,” Burchins said.
City Councilman Kenton Spencer said that he views the initial meeting of the advisory committee as another step in the development of a “culture of interaction between city council, management and the city employees.”
Spencer said that he expects to “serve happily and openly at the cookout out, serving the city’s employees.”
“They work very hard, and we should do things like this,” Spencer said. “It is a great idea, and it was a great idea from (Councilman Leak) to have retired workers there as well. Anything positive for the city like this is great.”
Spencer hopes that the advisory committee’s first recommendation to the board will become part of an ongoing dialogue between the employees and the council.
“Anything done in the spirit of promoting a healthier relationship between the various city stakeholders is very good,” Spencer said.
The advisory group will continue to meet on the fourth Thursday of every month at 2 p.m. at the Barrett Building on Church Street.