A Message From Robert Gelder, WSAC President, Kitsap County

As I write this message, I am sitting in my home office watching the garden just outside my window begin to take shape. The garden, like so many other aspects of life, is full of future potential and hope.

When I began my term as WSAC President, I knew that I would be stepping up to lend my voice on behalf of the association and member counties, and hopefully visiting many of your counties around the state. That has definitely changed some in the past couple of months.

While it certainly is an interesting time to be celebrating National Counties Month, in some ways it seems all the more apropos. Counties have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 Pandemic from the very beginning. I want to take this moment to thank our county leaders and public servants for their dedication to making sure counties deliver on critical services to our communities. It’s what we do with pride.

While managing during a pandemic likely was not the reason many of us ran to serve our communities, it is loud and clear that if falls squarely in our laps. It heightens our awareness that Counties Matter. Counties are essential to our communities’ ability to respond in crisis and simultaneously plan for a future of vitality as we reemerge from hiatus. Our health departments and districts, emergency management staff, emergency operation centers, and unified command partnerships have all played critical roles and our counties have been tireless advocates for our citizens and businesses.

Have the counties stopped working? No.  And for that very reason, I extend a heartfelt thank you to our workforce of over 30,000 across the state who have been adapting how they deliver services to the citizens that rely upon us.

Counties have done an incredible job in a short period of time.  Your adaptability and resiliency have been astounding – whether you’ve been able to mobilize your staff as a remote workforce, redeployed them to your EOC, adaptively managed the workflows as we learned along the way, or continuing the mission of service be it in public works, elections, planning and permitting, etc. Counties ROCK!!

Even during these unprecedented times, WSAC continues to be a trusted resource for members. It is important that counties are involved in the decisions to reopen our economy and, with the help of WSAC, we are seeing the Governor and state agencies working with local government to solve these big problems.

While no one knows what lies ahead, we are all understandably worried about our own budgets and how we will responsibly adapt. So as we prepare for a likely special legislative session, we will need to speak with one voice. The Legislature and state agencies need to see counties as a partner in the recovery.  We are where the rubber meets the road in the delivery of services after all and we can’t do that if we’re not strong enough to rebound.

Throughout all of this, there is one thing that remains true, Counties are the heart of Washington. Our communities have come together in this time of crisis and, in doing so, have inspired us to continue to push forward. I am proud to represent all 39 counties as President of the Washington State Association of Counties and encourage you to visit www.wsac.org for more information and to know that WSAC is here to support us just as it has for over 100 years.

Stay safe and I hope to see you in person soon.