President's Report

A year into the pandemic, Texas counties stand tested but strong

By Renee Couch, Comal County Treasurer and TAC Board President

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We passed the first anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Texas on March 4. At this point a year ago, most of us had no idea how long we would be living with the pandemic or how profoundly it would challenge us personally and professionally. As one social media wag drolly observed when the one-year mark approached, “Welcome to the first anniversary of the 14-day shutdown.” 

A year ago, as we learned new phrases like "social distancing" and "flatten the curve," many of us may have been wondering whether we were overreacting to a virus that at the time had infected so few. A year later, there are hardly any of us who have not been affected by COVID-19. Many of us have suffered a profound loss. 

County officials and employees immediately began working hard to maintain vital services and protect their residents from the new coronavirus. Some have lost their lives standing at the forefront of the state's fight to stop COVID-19. Several members of our county family in Texas have died because of the pandemic. Many more county officials nationwide have lost their lives. 

I wrote my first report for County magazine a year ago, having become TAC board president in January 2020. I had recently attended the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, where Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state, spoke about leadership. Though the future was unknowable, county officials at the conference already had an uneasy feeling that the coronavirus might test us in ways we couldn't begin to imagine. 

Powell talked about the importance of trust and how foundational it is to good leadership and teamwork. “One team, one fight. We’re all in this together," he said. 

Powell's remarks continue to resonate with me as I reflect on the past 12 months. Texas counties have navigated an unprecedented crisis with their typical spirit and resolve. We saw the same dedication to service again in February during the winter storms that left millions of Texans without power and water. 

Over the past year, Texas counties have learned how to conduct business effectively online and move vital services to a virtual setting. We have held safe elections, organized vaccination programs and distributed food and water. The hard work and sacrifices of Texas' county employees will always exemplify good leadership and teamwork.

We enter the second year of the coronavirus pandemic hopeful that a return to some semblance of our old normal lives is near, even as we know that things will never be the same, not with so many of our family members, friends, colleagues and fellow Texans lost to COVID-19. We have endured by working hard and pulling together to get to this promising point. And as we move forward, we will continue to stay #254Strong!