Downtown Mount Clemens, pictured March 17, a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order temporarily closing bars, theaters and other public spaces.

Downtown Mount Clemens, pictured March 17, a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order temporarily closing bars, theaters and other public spaces.

File photo by Alex Szwarc

Community leaders reflect on positives of the year as 2020 ends

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 15, 2020


CLINTON TOWNSHIP/HARRISON TOWNSHIP/MOUNT CLEMENS — While the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, 2020 nearly is.

Between the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan in March and now, C & G Newspapers asked various elected officials and community leaders across Macomb County two questions for this story — how will 2020 be remembered in the future, and what is a positive that can be taken away from these trying times?

In no specific order, here are some responses:
Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp:
“It will be remembered as a year that we had to learn to pivot and change everything that we did in the past. In my life, I’ve never had so many plans As, Bs, and Cs for everything. I think that’s what we’ll remember the most. I hope people remember how, in the beginning of the pandemic, we all came together to support frontline heroes and our neighbors in general. There was a strong camaraderie and I hope people remember that.”

Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base:
“2020 has been such a challenging year on so many levels and issues, at home and abroad, that continue to evolve. That being said, I believe the year will be looked back upon as a challenging and defining moment in our history that changed the world. As for the 127th Wing at Selfridge, 2020 required the men and women of the Michigan Air National Guard to perform some of the hardest and most rewarding missions that we can be called upon to perform. We’re proud of our role Selfridge continues to play — helping fellow Michiganders and our community, while maintaining readiness and supporting our nation’s defense.  From helping local food banks and supporting COVID-19 test centers to deploying across the globe during a pandemic and our Michigan Strong flyovers across the state, the men and women of the 127th Wing ‘Stand Ready’ to support our state and nation. This will never change.”

L’Anse Creuse Public Schools Superintendent Erik Edoff:
“In education, more than other industries, we have been slow to respond to the evolving world and the way it works. We’ve been fairly criticized for being traditional and not changing. This has forced us to move much more quickly and make adaptive changes quickly, and I think we ran to that challenge. To meet people and kids where they are at, based on the individual situation is something we are very proud of. We showed ourselves that we can do that. The adaptability of education is something that has been a positive. I hope it will be a time most people, although speech is extremely divisive nationally, I hope we remember it as a time people banded together cooperatively to solve things creatively. I hope it will be a time that creativity and effort changed things for the better.”    

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel:
“It was one where it provided an opportunity for people to figure out how to come together to resolve issues. With the pandemic, we’re fortunate in the sense there was no politicizing within the county over the issue. There’s 27 municipalities that make up Macomb County, each having their own elected bodies and the school boards. As we went through it, the contacts we had on a weekly, if not daily, basis with all municipalities, we were able to manage this crisis in a way that created very little, if any, tension at all. People in Macomb County came together to figure out how to be part of the solution. A positive was the ability to show that rather than sitting and complaining, being part of the solution is a better opportunity for us. We know there’s going to be organizational changes and services we can provide for better access to the public through the internet and computers. This forced people into the realm of doing things differently. Moving forward, you’ll find more streamlining and access to companies and government through the internet and anywhere you happen to be.”     

Mount Clemens Community Schools Superintendent Monique Beels:
“Parents understand how important relationships are between teachers and kids. We have meetings on Zoom and some of our meetings, not everything we have to do has to be face-to-face and I don’t think we’ve looked at that option before. My granddaughter graduated from high school this year and I would love to see what she has to say in 10 years about her senior year and missing prom and graduation. It’s almost like after 9/11 and going into airports. Our whole life changed and I’m not sure what that change will look like in education.”

Bill Ridella, director/health officer, at the Macomb County Health Department:
“The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be remembered for its widespread impact on everything we do — how we live, how we work and how we learn. As we look to the future, it is my hope that this experience will lead to better preparedness and an increased ability to engage vulnerable populations For example, it is clear that the pandemic revealed inequities in health care and social and economic factors that contribute to poor health outcomes for communities of color. These factors, and the uneven effects of COVID-19 on different communities make it clear why we must bridge these inequities in the future. In addition, we all know about the devastating effect that COVID-19 had in long-term care and assisted living facilities. We need to be proactive and make sure that nursing homes and their staff are fully equipped and receive proper training and guidance now to avoid similar situations in the future. I believe this pandemic will also be remembered for the tremendous efforts, dedication, and commitment of all of the professionals and staff at hospitals, EMS providers, long-term care facilities, local public health departments and other first responders.”