Armed with a citizens committee's vision of what Prince William should look like in 20 years, county officials are trying to put together long-term guidelines for use in everyday decisions.

The 15-member Commission on the Future turned in its report last week on Prince William in 2010, the product of 15 months spent gathering suggestions from more than 3,000 residents.

The report describes the future Prince William as a place where many people work at home, and many types of housing and mass transit are readily available. Recycling has become the norm, and new museums and schools -- from preschool to mid-career programs -- abound.

"The people have told us what they want the county to be," commission chairman Donald T. Poe said. "We visualize that the Board of Supervisors will keep those thoughts in mind as they go through the years."

That is exactly what the county plans to do with its new strategic planning process, said County Executive James H. Mullen.

During the next few months, county staff members will work with the supervisors to boil the 24-page report down into a shorter statement of its vision. The next step would be to determine the county's strengths and weaknesses and establish goals. The county staff would then break down the goals into specific objectives, each with a deadline, Mullen said.

For example, the vision includes a wide range of housing, and Prince William has a shortage of affordable housing. The goal would be to promote affordable housing. Specific objectives might be to rewrite the county's comprehensive plan for development to encourage inexpensive dwellings and to write a new county law that would allow developers to build more houses if they promised to make some of them less expensive.

The point of strategic planning, county officials say, is to make sure government decision makers keep long-range goals firmly in mind when they decide where to spend time and money.

Many businesses and federal agencies, such as the Defense Department, use strategic planning to focus their efforts and prevent them from getting side-tracked.

A strategic plan "tries to get out of the cycle of today's most important thing is not tomorrow's most important thing, and the third day's thing is something altogether different," said Craig Gerhart, director of the Office of Management and Budget, which has been charged with coming up with such a plan.

Mullen said he expects to have the goals ready by early 1992 and will present them for adoption to the supervisors elected in November 1991.

Once the plan is in place, the county could use it to evaluate spending habits. "Instead of spending a certain amount on police . . . we should ultimately be able to say we're spending this amount to improve this service this much," Gerhart said.

The strategic plan would have to be updated periodically, to make sure that the vision is still valid, and the goals are attainable, Mullen said.

The Commission on the Future asked the county to create an office of strategic planning that would work with citizens to ensure that their vision is not forgotten.

"We have recommended that there be strong citizen input into the {planning} office as time goes on, that it not be just one county staff member," Poe said. He said he hoped the supervisors would create another commission on the future in 2000 and start the process all over again.