The city took a beating, ex officio Mayor Dan Kaman said the other day, talking about the last time city staff went on a retreat.
He was right, and this paper did some of the beating. Why, we wondered, did the city's administrators have to closet themselves away at Put-in-Bay to talk about issues facing Sandusky?
That said, City Manager Mike Will and company rate good marks for the second retreat just concluded, this time in Grand Haven, Mich., at the other end of a 4 1/2 hour drive to the shores of Lake Michigan.
What's the difference? This time, city administrators went somewhere with a purpose. They didn't just go away.
Grand Haven's close to Sandusky's size and shares some situations with Sandusky: Lakeshore location, heavy industry in "transition" (gotta love that euphemism) and a tourist trade that's steady, if not of the magnitude of our coaster-and-waterpark-fueled economy.
In other words, Grand Haven's had to deal with some of the same problems facing Sandusky and come up with different solutions. Availing themselves of some of those solutions was one of the goals of the retreat; Will and Co. didn't just closet themselves around a conference table someplace where the local media can't get at them.
In addition, they did it on the cheap: One city car, one personal car, city picks up the gas and the $800 for lodging and attendees paid for their meals for the weekend. Everyone who went is salaried, so no overtime, and one of the days was Saturday, a freebie day for those of us still in the 9-to-5 universe.
There are still the quibbles about whether city commissioners were notified to their satisfaction and whether the retreat should have stayed in town. On the first, we suggest they were; complaining about that last little reminder is just posturing. On the second, the city administrators went where they thought the answers, or at least other perspectives, might be.
And we might benefit from those perspectives again, if Grand Haven's city staff makes a planned trip here, in a mirror image of the weekend retreat.
This is different from just going to the islands for the weekend. In addition to the look inward, our dailiy decision makers took a look outward, in search of other things that work.
Not a bad weekend's work.