In December, we asked people to share personal stories of their experience in 2020. Here’s what they had to say:
2020 in St. Pete Beach: Mayor’s Perspective
By Al Johnson
It’s been a challenging year in St. Pete Beach. COVID-19 disrupted how we conducted our daily lives and severely damaged our economy. City operations were dramatically revised to minimize the spread of the virus. City Hall was closed, rearranged and staff schedules changed. Many employees worked from home and staggered shifts when in the office to reduce exposure to co-workers. The public could only engage the city online or by appointment. Even commission meetings were held virtually. It was a different “normal.”
Businesses and beaches were closed for nearly two months in accordance with state and county guidelines. People stopped traveling to visit, which was a huge blow to our tourist-driven economy. Our local businesses and resorts absorbed a huge financial loss which continues to this day. SPB felt like it was in hibernation. Then to top it off on November 11th tropical storm Eta blew by at exactly the wrong time, causing the worst flooding the city has seen in at least 50 years.
In spite of these challenges, much has been accomplished!
In March, three members of our city commission were sworn in. COVID caused these rituals to be quite different – one taking place on the steps of City Hall. A new and a returning city commissioner joined me as I began my second term as mayor.
Our long-time city clerk retired and the commission hired her replacement in early summer about the time the virus was surging. Our major construction projects continued. Early in the year our library moved to temporary quarters as we began a complete re-build of its historic home. The Blind Pass Road street replacement was completed as was the beautification of Corey Avenue. The upgrade to our sewer system broke ground in October and the under-grounding of electrical lines on Gulf Boulevard is set to start as well. We have begun work on the city-wide plan to combat sea level rise/climate change through 2050 and recently adopted a strategic plan to guide our activities through to 2030. This latter item is the result of many brainstorming meetings involving the city’s stakeholders – residents, employees, business owners, hotel owners and elected officials. A truly collaborative effort!
We’re looking forward to ’21! Our commission will be unchanged and is a great group who truly care about this city. I’m proud to be part of the team. We accomplished much in 2020 in some challenging conditions, learning a lot about ourselves in the process. I think COVID-19 brought out the best in people more often than the worst. It’s restored my faith in mankind.
We truly are all in this together and there is nothing we can’t overcome working as one – have faith, follow the CDC guidelines… vaccines are on the way!