2020 was like no other year we have ever experienced. All of us grappled with the wide array of challenges caused by an unexpected worldwide pandemic. We never imagined we would be dealing with all the issues that come with a public health crisis. As we faced these extremely difficult circumstances, it provided our dedicated City of Plano employees with an opportunity to shine, enhancing our belief that we truly are a “City of Excellence.”
As the year began, we were filled with optimism, hope, and big goals. Our City mission, as always, focused on delivering the Plano Promise to our residents: protecting them, educating them with our exceptional schools and nurturing them as a community. Even in these tough times, we believe we continue to fulfill this mission.
As we celebrated the arrival of 2020 one year ago, we were riding a wave of economic momentum after the announcement of the magnificent Collin Creek development and the kickoff of DART’s Silver Line project. This would provide a great start toward a new decade of growth and prosperity. Fortunately, both endeavors are underway and proceeding full steam ahead.
In March, it seemed the world changed in a heartbeat. The pandemic presented so many other tough challenges for our City. We had little time to figure out how to deliver the same excellent services our residents expect in creative new ways.
There are too many examples to mention. But here are a few. When our libraries closed, our librarians became an important and helpful resource by manning a COVID call center. They also started a “Senior Care Calls” program, checking in with our seniors to ensure they were safe and had contact with others.
We reimagined the role of our Parks and Recreation staff. They became “friendly monitors” in our parks and on our many miles of walking and bike trails to remind people of protocols and social distancing. We made a transition from in-person to virtual City Council meetings. We sped up technology projects to maintain services at a high level.
The pandemic created a significant financial impact on so many levels, especially to our residents. Plano’s jobless rate rose from 3% in February to 12% in April. By the end of the year, about 6% were unemployed. The City’s sales tax revenue declined by nearly 2%. What became clear was that many families in our community were hurting because of those lost jobs.
Even in times of difficult challenges, we still witnessed many powerful accomplishments that continue to impact our community. We revamped our Plano Mayor’s Summer Internship Program, so our promising young people could still have opportunities in the workplace on a path to a bright future.
We converted them to virtual internships. Fifty rising juniors and seniors successfully completed the program. We also continued to feed the hungry in our community. The 7th annual North Texas Peanut Butter Drive went virtual as well. The results were astounding. It brought in a record 290,000 pounds of peanut butter, all donated by the community.
We also took steps to secure a better future. All 13 member cities of the North Texas Municipal Water District put their differences aside and negotiated in good faith to forge a long-term water contract that is fair for all and will provide financial stability, promote conservation and meet our longterm water needs.
We also managed to see economic development gains during the pandemic. Companies like Shutterfly and Ebby Halliday relocated to Plano. Others, like Peloton, announced major expansions. These moves resulted in 2,329 new jobs for the year.
I am so proud of these and many other efforts to continue conducting business in a safe manner.
I think back of when I first became Plano’s Mayor in 2013. During my first interview as Mayor, I was asked about my vision for Plano. I replied, “My vision is for Plano to remain the same.”
What did I mean by that?
Plano was and still is today a safe, smart world-class city that offers our residents an abundance of cultural and recreational opportunities. We are welcoming, diverse and inclusive. This is our DNA. As a result, we can comfortably compete on a global stage for any business or family that is looking for a great place to call “home”.
Technology continues to play an important role in our City’s evolution. It will allow us to serve our people in new ways. Our business community is no different. It will also continue to find new innovative ways to meet the needs of our daily lives. The one absolute constant that has not changed and never will is our values. It makes us who we are and helps us deliver the Plano Promise.
As we start 2021, I am optimistic our best days are ahead of us. I believe our City is unique and special because of our people and sense of community. I often call it our “secret sauce.” The acts of kindness and compassion I hear about every day are a powerful and heartwarming testament to what a true “community” is all about. We saw so many of these gestures during the holiday season from providing meals to those with the greatest need to providing a helping hand to struggling restaurants to ensure their businesses can survive. It exemplifies the best in us and gives me hope for the future.
One of our former Presidents once described America as a “shining city on a hill.” Those words and images resonate strongly for me as that’s exactly how I see Plano. Our collective prayer is that the virus will soon be eradicated and as our lives transition to a new normal, the City of Plano will continue to serve as the light that leads the region, state and nation forward.
Thank you, City of Plano for allowing me the privilege to represent you as mayor. When my term ends in May, I look forward to passing the baton to a new mayor who I have full confidence will strive to maintain Plano’s reputation as the City of Excellence.
Originally appeared in the January/February print issue.