As we navigate the first few weeks of 2021, I join fellow Cheshire residents in looking forward to better days ahead, with renewed feelings of hope, resolve and purpose.
We are all committed to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and coming through this shared experience stronger on the other side. Despite some bumps in the road, we hope the state’s ongoing vaccine rollout will expand rapidly and lead to a summer and fall that could begin to look like those of years past.
Nevertheless, we do so without losing sight of the incredible challenges and heartbreak of the past year.
We grieve for the loved ones who we lost to the pandemic. We also think about those who have recovered after a difficult battle with the disease and those with a long road of recovery ahead. We think about the many medical professionals in Cheshire and beyond who stepped up heroically during the hardest times, often sacrificing personal safety and contact with family members to treat those most in need of care. We think about all of the businesses that have struggled and all front-line workers who have persevered through these challenging times.
But Cheshire residents made it through this unprecedented year by doing what they do best — supporting one another at every turn; looking out for those who need help and lifting them up; coming together even if forced to be apart; and celebrating our community and all we have to be grateful for.
Years from now, when I think back on 2020, I will remember the challenges and the heartbreak. But I will also make a point to remember all the positive things this community did to carry each other through. The nightly ringing of bells, the teacher and birthday parades, the signs and messages of hope and support, the roving Cheshire Easter Bunny, the Hometown Foundation Community Parade, the celebration of our graduating seniors, the Fall Festival fireworks show, the scarecrows, the 100th birthday party for three incredible Cheshire WWII veterans, the thousands of beautiful luminaries on the night of the Lights of Hope, and the resident mailboxes for letters to Santa and the Santa firetruck parade.
Cheshire is an incredible town made up of incredible people, and those of us working for your local government strive to reflect and support the values of this community. I am incredibly proud of the men and women who serve as employees of the Town of Cheshire. At every turn this past year, these public servants, working in a wide variety of town departments, have risen to the challenge to ensure our services remain open, accessible and responsive to the needs of the community.
Our Cheshire Police Department officers and dispatchers continued to provide exceptional, first-rate public safety protection and response in a year in which their profession experienced adversity beyond the challenges faced by the pandemic. Our Fire Department staff and volunteer members navigated emergency response in the COVID world and responded to major local incidents without missing a beat, and with their characteristic passion, commitment and professionalism.
Our Town Clerk and elections staff conducted a well-run and well-planned presidential election with incredibly high turnout and unprecedented logistics. They found creative solutions to issues as they developed and worked hard to ensure a free and fair election when the stakes were incredibly high.
Our Cheshire Public Library staff completely reimagined the delivery of library services, much to the appreciation of our community patrons, establishing extensive safety protocols, demonstrating impressive creativity and flexibility, producing virtual programming, and partnering with the Senior Center to make phone calls to offer assistance to local senior citizens.
Our Building Department staff and inspectors continued to respond to more residential and commercial permit requests than ever before, and worked to ensure public safety and support business and grand list development in town.
Our Public Works, Park Grounds and Sewer Treatment Plant employees tackled COVID workspace modifications and facility cleanings, field and park reopenings on short notice with limited resources, and provided an incredible response to the widespread damage and cleanup required after Tropical Storm Isaias.
Our Planning and Economic Development staff worked tirelessly throughout the year to support the local business community and to conduct virtual commission meetings to support consideration and responsible approval of significant local projects to grow the Town’s local economy and tax base.
Our Human Services Department, including Youth and Senior Services teams continued to support and respond to the significantly increased mental health needs of our community members facing isolation, anxiety and loss. They also stepped forward and did an incredible job organizing and staffing an emergency shelter at Highland School for multiple days during the widespread tropical storm power outage.
Our Recreation and Community Pool staff members worked diligently to provide critical athletic and recreational opportunities to an entire community that was desperate for safe socialization and sports outlets to support physical and mental health over a season where case numbers allowed us to safely do so.
Our Town finance and administrative support staff throughout all of our town facilities adapted to new COVID-impacted procedures and deadlines, FEMA expense tracking and administration, and ensured that our revenues are carefully planned and received, in order to fund all of the critical town functions listed above.
And our extended Town family, the teachers and staff of the Cheshire Public Schools and our public health staff at Chesprocott, have continued to provide unbelievable services to the Cheshire community under extraordinary pressures and unprecedented circumstances.
I appreciate how incredibly difficult last year was for everyone. When so many of our daily activities and family traditions that we used to take for granted have been altered or taken away, we have all learned to appreciate them more than ever. But above all, I deeply appreciate and will never take for granted all of the Cheshire residents, businesses and town public servants who have worked so hard to bring this community through the experience of last year and on to better days in 2021.
We will be an even stronger, more compassionate and more resilient community because of your efforts.