By Carolyn McAdams
I can assure you that when I was elected mayor of Green-wood in June, 2009, I never gave a thought to a pandemic, much less one that would affect our small piece of the world. However, that’s what every mayor in our state and nation is struggling with today.
In my twelve years on the job, most of the situations I have been faced with are the normal complaints and failures such as unleashed dogs, garbage, waste water and potholes.
Now arises a pandemic where the playbook has not been written for local elected officials. The most unprecedented health crisis of modern times has caused all in Mississippi to take drastic measures to slow the spread while trying to reduce the economic impact to the best of our ability. Sadly, we had to apply the brakes to the world as we knew it and grind to a halt. Mayors have had to close non-essential businesses, recommend that churches not open their doors, strongly encourage social distancing and mask wearing, and order curfews for all citizens to follow. It feels like a nightmare, and it would be a blessing if I woke up and could say, “I had the strangest dream last night.”
If anyone had asked me what a global pandemic would look like, I would have been clueless. Now we all know, and life doesn’t feel nor look the same. As you drive around, you see people wearing face masks and standing a respectable six feet apart while they wait somewhat patiently in lines. Medical professionals—God bless them—are suited up like astronauts.
Mississippi, along with the rest of the nation, has been put to its biggest test since World War II. That said, most communities in our great state have risen to the challenge and adapted to the requirements needed to keep our citizens safe. And while we’re adapting, we had to keep essential services running smoothly. As a mayor I can tell you that enforcing the safety of a city is a huge responsibility. All of us want to slow the spread and prevent additional deaths from occurring, and in order to do our jobs we had to become somewhat dictatorial, which trust me, will not win you any popularity contests.
Adjusting to social distancing in Mississippi where every town and city thrives on hospitality is perplexing at best. The good news is how our ever-resourceful Mississippians have stepped up to help battle this invisible monster. It’s hard for a “hugger” to adjust to bumping elbows while wearing a mask, but we have made the transition!
The Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Com-merce has been a remarkable team player through all the ups and downs. They assisted by providing timely information about opportunities for small business loans and how to continue to operate safely and provide for their families. The Chamber collaborated with Tourism, Economic Develop-ment and Main Street, making sure businesses felt appreciated and understand that we were indeed trying to be pro-business.
Greenwood’s tourism industry was on a roll. Every weekend The Alluvian boutique hotel was filled with people wanting a relaxing and fun get-a-way. The Viking Cooking School classes were rocking and rolling as well. Our fabulous restaurants were filled and things were vibrant in historic downtown Greenwood. Then came mid-March and the world as we knew it stopped. We all had to reevaluate how we did almost everything. The structure of our city’s official meetings changed from open public meetings to meetings by Zoom. The city’s website became the only way citizens could attend our council meetings.
Everyone was suddenly focused on how to keep safe and healthy while trying to keep our local economy afloat. The good news is we have some very smart, creative people in Greenwood who worked diligently to keep local morale up. They made thousands of masks, painted signs of encouragement for houses and businesses, educated all on the COVID-19 guidelines (that will be etched in our minds forever) and found great ways to support our local businesses and churches.
I cannot say enough about our front-line healthcare workers. The entire staff of Greenwood Leflore Hospital, from the administration, doctors and nurses to the support staff rose to meet the challenge. As one of the state’s first fronts in the fight against COVID-19, we had to move swiftly and decisively. Thank God we were able to do that.
As I have said many times, together we will come back stronger than ever. And like all good Southerners, we will return to hugging one day in the future, but for now stay safe, stay smart and stay healthy.