Editor’s Note: Some four months ago, we asked an array of local leaders to give us their takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on our communities. We’re circling back around and asking some of the same leaders and some others about how they see things as we head for the half-year point with the coronavirus. Here’s the first of many installments.
Steve Smith, Sutter County administrator:
The COVID-19 pandemic still overshadows everyday life, with no signs of it letting off anytime soon. And Sutter County Administrator Steve Smith said he’s run the spectrum of emotions, from concerned to thankful and everywhere in between.
“I have been concerned about the virus and its impact on the physical health of residents, the economic health of businesses and the mental health of everyone,” he said. “I’m thankful that I work in a field where I am working through the pandemic. In fact, I’m working more hours than ever, but I can’t complain. I know so many people that have been laid off from work.”
Advocating for businesses
Smith has been CAO since August 2019 and his main priority is to support the board of supervisors’ goals and priorities and ensure important services are provided to county residents. He credits the board for their efforts to support the local community through the pandemic. To date, the board has developed an emergency business loan program, supported the local food bank, and approved CARES Act funding for a local business grant program.
“As a county, we continually advocate for local businesses at the state and federal level, whether alone, in partnership with Yuba County and Yuba City or in regional partnerships with other jurisdictions with the assistance of Assemblyman Gallagher and state Senator Nielsen,” Smith said. “Sutter County will continue to advocate for the community and provide vital services throughout this event.”
He said community members are holding up well considering the circumstances, but are also frustrated. While the pandemic has really only impacted the area since March, he said, it feels more like a year. He said another six months of the current state of things would be rough for everyone.
“There is fatigue from continually living with the circumstances, maintaining distance from friends and family, wearing facial coverings when out at stores,” Smith said. “Businesses have been hit hard. Sutter County has established a business outreach team (SCORE Team) that provides education on COVID mitigation efforts, PPE supplies and answers questions. Business owners have been very receptive, and I see them going through great efforts to protect the health of their customers.”
While the situation is stressful for all, he’s confident the efforts being made by the county are in the best interests of serving the community, which he characterized as resilient and generous.
Moving forward, he said the county hopes to receive information from the state on its long-term plans for addressing the pandemic. He said local officials want to know if local data will be used in the ongoing decisions that impact everyone’s lives.
“Despite the seemingly all-encompassing impact of COVID-19, other work continues,” Smith said. “The county will be having budget hearings in August. Staff are still developing a financial strategic plan for the Board of Supervisors’ consideration. Though these are difficult times, the Board of Supervisors and staff continue to take actions to strengthen Sutter County as an organization.”