Facing the challenge of COVID-19 and keeping the community safe is something Barbara Roden, the mayor of Ashcroft, is encouraging all residents to do.
Roden has been mayor of Ashcroft since 2018 and served on council prior to that as a councillor. So far, she said her term has been quite interesting, and while she thought she had a pretty good idea of what to expect, something like COVID-19 has been as much of a surprise and challenge for her as everyone else.
She says that the Village has been responding to the crisis directly for the last three to four weeks, ever since they realized the potential extent of the pandemic. As such, Roden has been holding briefings with senior staff, ensuring there are good chains of communication set up with employees like the Village crew, and how to handle physical distancing in the workplace.
“We’ve been putting information up on our website and communicating to the public, because I was on council during the 2017 wildfires and of course we were sort of the epicentre of that and very hard hit,” Roden says. “Something that came out of a lot of local governments was the difficulty of communicating at that time, so we’ve realized how key it is to communicate and just get the message out to the public on what we’re doing, what steps we’re taking, and what’s changed and why it’s changed.”
In addition to ensuring Ashcroft is well informed about the ongoing response to COVID-19, Roden says she also would like to emphasize that they encourage the public to ask questions of them.
So far, the public response to the crisis has been pretty good overall in Ashcroft, Roden says. The business community has obviously been hard hit, having to either shut down or limit their operations, but the people, while a little fearful, have maintained the caring nature Ashcroft is known for. Much like during the wildfires, Roden is seeing people help those in need once more, with volunteers picking up groceries and prescriptions from the pharmacy for those at risk or taking the time to call those who are shut-in.
“I think a lot of people are discovering that their cellphones can actually make phone calls,” Roden says with a laugh.
As far as COVID-19 goes, Roden says they’re dealing with any issues that arise as they come up. She adds that the Village has a good relationship with the local RCMP detachment and that they’re willing to assist with anything the Village needs.
Roden encourages the citizens of Ashcroft to look out for one another, be kind to people, be calm, and most of all ensure that whatever information they’re receiving about COVID-19 is factual. Speculation, rumour, and gossip can spread easily if proper due diligence is not followed, she warns.
She also encourages people to put their phones down and turn off their computers from time to time and go for a walk. Obsessing about COVID-19 can be unhealthy, and ensuring you have the proper balance in your life can be really valuable right now.
On the administration side of things, Roden says that council has appointed Ashcroft’s deputy corporate officer, Daniela Dyck, to the position of interim chief administrative officer. Dyck has held the position for the last month, Roden says, and been doing “just an excellent job.” Currently, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to see how the position and situation pans out for everyone.
This is quite the time to be taking on the responsibility, Roden acknowledges, but says that Dyck has been calm and collected doing her job, which has been really nice to have during these times. She loves the community and the people within it like her, so Roden thinks it’s a good fit.
“We’ve still got quite a few big infrastructure projects on the horizon which we’re hoping to go ahead with. When things get back to normal it will be really nice to have them to focus on,” Roden says.
While she’s happy to see some of the support programs being offered to people so far, Roden feels that the real work is yet to come. Once society returns to some semblance of normal the cost of all this disruption will have to be accounted for and dealt with.
“[The supports are] a great beginning, but it’s the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end,” Roden says.