By Susan M. Redford, Executive Director
A year ago when I marked the end of my first year as TAC's executive director, no one could have seen what was to come in a few short months — how COVID-19 would alter our lives, routines and way of working so profoundly. But if a year ago I was thankful for the privilege of working with "a staff of dedicated TAC employees who bring their 'A' games to work every day," this year I am immeasurably grateful.
I don't know what lies beyond an "A" game, but TAC's staff, as well as our steadfast members, found it. For the second year in a row, the Austin American-Statesman named TAC the top mid-sized workplace in the greater Austin metropolitan area. The honor is based on a survey of our employees, who have met all of this year's unprecedented challenges head-on. Their flexibility and adaptability have allowed TAC to continue to support Texas' 254 counties with top-notch service.
A current example: TAC's workshops for newly elected officials, which begin Dec. 8. This programming helps prepare first-time county officials for the offices they're about to take. We had hoped to hold the workshops in person, but in the end, we switched to a virtual format to ensure everyone's safety. I have no doubt the workshops will be as informative and as successfully run as the other programs and conferences we've been forced to offer remotely this year. The pandemic may change our plans, but it will not deter us from our fundamental mission.
The incredible commitment of our county officials and employees who worked tirelessly to serve their constituents during the pandemic also stands out to me when I look back on 2020. That commitment is clearly represented by the recipients of TAC's 2020 County Best Practices Awards. Read all about them on our website at www.county.org/bestpractices.
Finally, the pandemic has underscored the importance of high-speed internet service. In August, Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley was one of three county officials nationwide named to the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission, which was created to help the FCC develop telecommunication services and capabilities affecting county, municipal, state and tribal governments.
Whitley is also a member of a broadband task force formed in October by the National Association of Counties to study the lack of high-speed internet service in rural and other underserved counties. Texas is well-represented on the task force, which Wise County Judge J.D. Clark co-chairs. Other Texans on the task force include Comal County Treasurer and TAC President Renee Couch, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley and Glasscock County Judge Kim Halfmann.
I look forward to their contributions and leadership on this important issue. Their service is a benefit for all Texas counties.
Next year will be as busy as ever, with a new — and we anticipate, a demanding — legislative session set to begin Jan. 12. And as I close out my final report of the year, COVID-19 remains pervasive.
But hope is on the horizon, with vaccines on the way. Together, we will make it to the end of this pandemic and a return to some kind of normal. And together, we will be as productive as always.
I wish each of you a safe and healthy holiday season. Thank you for being 254 Strong all year!