By Renee Couch, Comal County Treasure and TAC President
Listening recently to Gen. Colin Powell talk about leadership, I was truly inspired, but I didn’t fully realize how much his words would mean to me just a few short weeks later.
Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state for President George W. Bush, discussed leadership development with county officials at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. in early March. At the time, county officials were already aware that the new coronavirus might test the limits of our leadership capabilities. Then things got real for us very quickly.
I have thought many times about Powell’s messages to county leaders, such as the importance of trust. “When you trust your people … they trust you,” he said. “One team, one fight. We’re all in this together.”
That statement was never more relevant than it is now as county judges and commissioners face challenges they may have only imagined in nightmares. Natural disasters and cyberattacks are plenty bad enough, but the coronavirus is an invisible enemy with a timetable of its own. “We’re all in this together” is an important message for county officials and their teams, especially those now at the forefront of our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. This means working impossibly long hours, exposing themselves daily to a deadly contagion, and worrying about where the next life-saving supplies will come from in an unknowable future. County budgets will be strapped, and county judges and commissioners will be left with tough choices. State and federal assistance and the stimulus bill that includes $150 billion for state and local governments will be a big help. We are grateful to President Trump for responding swiftly to our needs and recognizing the importance of local government’s role in fighting this pandemic.
But good leadership and good teamwork will have made all the difference when the last case of COVID-19 has been reported and Texans can look forward to returning to normal life once again. My heart goes out to all county employees who are making tough sacrifices so that they can continue to provide the vital and essential services their residents need.
Take care of yourselves and each other. And above all, stay positive. For, as Gen. Powell said, “Your optimism will fuel the whole organization so that they will always believe that they are capable of doing any job you put in front of them.”
Digging deep feels great when we know our work matters and that together we can accomplish anything.