1 COVID-19 changed all of our lives so much. How did the pandemic affect your work? How did you have to adapt?
When the city buildings shut down, I began working mostly remotely and still do as much as I can to help reduce the exposure risk of my colleagues who can't work from home. Meetings with elected officials, community leaders and my coworkers switched to being held virtually, which has required a new level of intentionality. Previously, a lot of relationship-building and information exchange occurred during the few minutes before or after in-person meetings, so maintaining that has entailed much more direct outreach, which actually has led to even more meetings than before.
2 What have you learned from those changes?
I continue to learn how to improve and adapt communications. I took for granted how much a brief exchange can help foster relationships and problem-solving; group Zoom meetings don't really provide an environment for that one-on-one passing conversation. However, in some ways, there have been increased levels of collaboration with everyone being on a conference call or in a virtual meeting at once and having to take turns to speak and listen closely to what each person says.
3 State lawmakers gaveled in last week for the 2021 legislative session. What are some of Fort Wayne's priorities in terms of legislators' actions this session?
We will be watching for proposals that may impact how we locally manage and provide city services during events like the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding for additional costs incurred, offering paid leave to reduce spread among employees, holding public meetings safely, keeping our local businesses open while minimizing exposure for workers and patrons, and helping our neighbors struggling during these uncertain times. We also will discuss potential changes to state law as our public safety officers continue to increase usage of body cameras.
4 What would you say is the top priority?
We first must meet the immediate needs of our residents and businesses so everyone makes it through the current challenges. We have leveraged resources, like the federal COVID-19 relief funds that have flowed through the state, to ensure we don't lose our local businesses and jobs. We must continue to protect and maintain investments our community has made in economic development, public safety and infrastructure so we weather this storm together.
5 What are your hopes for Fort Wayne this year?
I hope that Fort Wayne's sense of community continues to strengthen through the pandemic just as it has throughout our city's history of recovering from floods, financial hardships and industry closures. I hope we become unafraid to tackle our greatest challenges with a shared goal of Fort Wayne realizing its full potential for all who make Fort Wayne home.