Apple Creek mayor revisits challenging year

Apple Creek mayor revisits challenging year
Rhonda Edgerton

Apple Creek Mayor Rodney Mackey

                        

Apple Creek Mayor Rodney Mackey said the Bear Strong signs at the Southeast local schools helped inspire him during the worst days of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I can’t say enough about the leadership our schools showed,” Mackey said. “Some days that was exactly what I needed. I was one of those seniors who grocery shopped during the early hours for safety, and I’ll never forget the fear in people’s eyes.”

Mackey said the village’s first responsibility was the safety and protection of the community. “This included not only the residents, but also our associates who work for the community in the police, the fire department, the street department and our village hall office,” he said.

Mackey said his first administrative challenge was how to be able to maintain vital communication with the village council and departments in the early stages of the pandemic. He said the police played an indispensable role in that their IT capabilities were already very strong.

“We met on Zoom like everyone else did,” Mackey said. “There’s not a whole lot of room in here, and we had to comply with the state’s guidance.”

Mackey said money from the federal CARES Act allowed the village to purchase needed AV equipment and renovate the village hall to add a service window that would keep personal contact to a minimum.

“We have our staff here, and people come in to pay their water bills and do other important business,” Mackey said, adding the village followed all the directives of Gov. Mike DeWine in an effort to keep everyone safe.

Large projects in the village went on, despite the pandemic, including the opening of the new Beall store in the middle of town and the bridge rebuild project on U.S. Route 250, as well as the demolition of the former BP station in the center of the village.

Already a large endeavor, the bridge-improvement project was delayed when steel production declined in light of the coronavirus, and then unexpected ground soil conditions added another complication.

“The road was closed down to one lane with a stoplight limiting traffic. There were many days where traffic was backed up way into town,” Mackey said.

The project also made it difficult for safety services to get to the other part of town, Mackey said.

Other impacts of the virus were the village park being closed and the annual Johnny Appleseed Days festival getting canceled. Mackey said community members are scheduled to meet this month to determine if and how the event can return this year.

Mackey said county entities such as the WARCOG dispatch system and the Wayne County health department were invaluable. “The county really had my back,” he said.

Mackey is one of the county residents pictured on the “I love Wayne County so I mask up” billboard campaign throughout the county.

“I can’t say enough about how essential the county health department was throughout this,” Mackey said. “Everyone involved had the attitude that we were all in this together.”

Mackey said a quote from Virginia Tech English Department chair Carolyn Rude in the wake of the mass shooting there summed up the COVID-19 crisis for him: “Tragedy does its best work within us if it enhances our resilience, our wisdom and our ability to care. This finds its best expression in our will to honor those we have lost.”

“Many of our seniors and their families will never get over this,” Mackey said. “But we hope the younger ones will learn from it and move forward.”

Rhonda Edgerton can be emailed at wooedge@gmail.com.


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