Stillwater, OK

The Biggest Lessons I Learned In 2020

Rachel Dillin

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Last year was a tough one for people in the United States and around the world. While there is plenty to be thankful for, it was also a year filled with lessons.

For me, the biggest lesson I learned is that local and state-level government matters. So few people get out and vote for the local elections, and throughout the coronavirus pandemic, those officials have had the biggest effects on my daily life.

Protecting the City of Stillwater

Without Mayor Will Joyce and the Stillwater City Council, we would not have a mask mandate in Stillwater because our governor, Kevin Stitt, refused to implement the suggestions from the White House Coronavirus Task Force weekly reports.

For their efforts, the mayor and city council ended up being the subject of a failed recall effort from a small group of residents in the minority. This group is erroneously named "Unite Stillwater," but it has done everything it can to keep the local government from enacting policies to protect public health.

Similarly, the local school board and administration also worked hard to protect my children while providing them an education during this unprecedented health crisis. For their efforts, they were sued by a small group of parents who believe that the school should be fully in-person regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in our community.

While many blamed the Oklahoma State University students for causing the rise in cases in the city, they've been away from campus since November 30, and the cases are higher than they've ever been.

Stillwater Medical Center has done an amazing job of keeping the community informed about the level of COVID-19 patients in its facility. The hospital's COVID-19 ward has been full or nearly full in both ICU and other beds for weeks now. The non-covid part of the hospital also has patients.

The community spread in Stillwater and Payne county is entirely out of control. It appears as if all formal efforts of contact tracing are either inadequate or non-existent.

For the first time in my life, I've seen very clearly how important good leadership is at all levels of our government. Those elections in which the majority of voters are more likely to skip are actually the most important. I am incredibly grateful to see calm, level-headed leaders who rely on science and experts to inform their decisions.

Riley Flack of Unite Stillwater is running for city council, and if he had been on the council during the pandemic last year, the city might not have a mask mandate. He's tried his hardest to ensure that there are no formal protections for public health as the pandemic rages out of control.

Other Lessons

The other biggest lesson I've learned is the importance of my family. We have spent more time together than ever before, and I am eternally grateful for it, despite the unusual circumstances. I'm so proud of my children and their resilience under such extreme stress and upheaval.

They will be the leaders of tomorrow, and I believe this experience has prepared them by showing them the importance of government at all levels and by teaching them how to adapt quickly. I believe they will be better community members than many in my and my parents' generations.

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TV & entertainment writer. eBook publisher. Wife. Mother of 2 children. Fitness instructor, runner, belly dancer, and amateur Astronomer. Coke Zero enthusiast.

Stillwater, OK
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