Cover Story: One man’s vision


Detlef Rathmann describes his image of the Community Vision for Excellence

On Feb. 1, Detlef Rathmann celebrated being retired for 10 years, but the Noblesville resident has a funny way of defining the word. If you spend five minutes in a room talking with Rathmann, it’s easy to hear his passion for the city of Noblesville and his picture for the Community Vision for Excellence, which he heads.

“It’s such a positive experience. It’s not a job, it’s a task,” he remarked. “I’m working with great people in Noblesville. Almost everyone I come in contact with is on board.”

During his 41 years in business, Rathmann worked in manufacturing management as a McGill Manufacturing plant manager in Monticello, Ind., before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., to oversee two plants and build another four plants in the Midwest for NSK Corp. Staying active while “retired” is not a problem for Rathmann. He has taught business classes at Ball State University for three semesters, worked with the SCORE office for five and a half years, and in September 2010, he was hired as Community Vision Coordinator.

“He served as the chairman of the committee, and when it got to the point to run with this, he was the natural choice. He stepped up and volunteered,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear.

The Community Vision for Excellence began in 1993 as a benchmarking process with the first report published the next year. In 1995, the Benchmarking Steering Committee & Stewardship Committee was established. The first interim report was created in 1995 and the second interim report came out in 2002. Not much progress was made with benchmarking again until 2008-2010, when it was updated and had its name changed to Noblesville Community Vision for Excellence.

“We had five people who really had a passion to put this vision together,” said Rathmann, who chaired the benchmark steering committee with fellow members Chris Hamm, Steve Ingram, Greg O’Connor and Mary Sue Rowland. “When the rubber hit the road was when Mayor Ditslear said I need someone to implement this. Now we’re really moving.”

The Noblesville Vision for Excellence has five strategies underway and two more it is working to implement. The vision also has four overarching goals: education, environment, growth and people. Each primary objective has at least five measurements to ensure the city is moving forward (some range up to 19 measurements).

“Measurements drive our decisions with data – facts and figures and measurements,” said Rathmann. “The Community Vision for Excellence centers around the 52,000 of us (Noblesville residents). How can we make life as good as possible? The workforce revolves around jobs. If our community is better prepared, the better chance we have of having a low unemployment rate … We want people to have the best opportunity to work and have a good paying job so they live here and retire here.”


Community Vision for Excellence Strategies

1. Establish a Workforce Development Council

The Workforce Development Council’s mission is to prepare a workforce ready to immediately and positively contribute in today’s business environment. The focus will be to instill social, academic, technical and business skills to individuals not planning to attend educational institutions after high school, or for those who have worked their whole lives in a trade no longer needed. By providing better-prepared employees, Rathmann said work places can reduce costs and increase their efficiency.

“It allows them to be more competitive and grow their business,” he said. “It also allows the city to say, ‘Look what we are doing for workforce development.’ We’re trying to make ourselves more attractive to companies.”

2. Establish a Volunteer Network headed by a volunteer coordinator

Using grant money awarded from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Legacy Fund, the city hired Cindy Benedict to serve as the Noblesville Volunteer Coordinator. Ditslear said the network will provide a systematic means to support nonprofit organizations with volunteers to better accomplish the organizations’ respective goals and objectives. It also will fill gaps with volunteers where government, education and health care might have to consider reducing service because of funding shortages.

“We learned from the recent citizen survey that people wanted more volunteer opportunities,” Ditslear said.

Benedict has been a Hamilton County resident for six years and has more than 25 years of experience in volunteer management for professional organizations, universities, churches and social service agencies.

“My passion is to connect people to organizations and events that help the community. I’m excited to begin work and help people quickly find the right volunteer fit for their skills and interests,” Benedict said.

3. Coordinate/expand continuing and nontraditional education

Rathmann said continuing education can include arts, sports, academic or technical classes.

“It could be square-dancing lessons or how to sail a boat – anything that enhances the continuation to learn,” he said.

The task force is looking to compile a list of what’s available for residents and determine what gaps there may be, and where there is duplication so resources can be used elsewhere.

4. Align the efforts by many to assist the marginalized and needy

Rathmann said the goal is to streamline the process to assist those in need, and added the important issues are providing food, shelter and transportation.

“If someone has a need, they need it now, not in five days,” he said.

While volunteering at Grace Community Church, Rathmann has seen the need – saying he’s talked with people who didn’t know what they were going to do for dinner since they had nothing.

“Let’s get this done without the federal and state governments. We need to take care of ourselves,” he said.

5. Coordinate community-wide health promotion/awareness

The task force is working to provide a list of opportunities for individual health improvements and publish such a list on a regular basis. Like other strategies, looking for duplication and gaps are crucial to improving the type and level of services.

The sixth and seventh strategies in process include maintaining and following the City Development Plan, and maintaining and implementing the Downtown Strategic Plan.


By Robert Herrington
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Robert is the managing editor of Current in Noblesville.