A Skilled Leader for Tough Times


Innovation and collaboration are our lifeboat
by Heidi Eisenhour
May 31, 2020


If there is anything positive to come out of the COVID19 Pandemic it is the opportunity for us to work together to make things better. Jefferson County Leaders - including our County Commissioners - more than ever, are and will need to continue managing both short-term responsiveness and future recovery. And the only way to be successful is to rely on the combined entrepreneurial creativity and characteristic generosity of our community to see us through these times and come out stronger.

In the short term, there are 4000 Jefferson County residents filing unemployment claims in recent weeks, 8000 residents using our network of four local food banks, and in the Chimacum School District alone 3700 meals a week being delivered by school bus to families who are food insecure. On top of that, about a third of the families in the District don’t have access to the internet - in these heavily internet dependent times. The Pandemic has clearly illustrated the need for a web of community resources working collaboratively to create a safety net for our neighbors.

A prime example of this responsiveness is the Jefferson County Covid-19 Response Fund managed by the Jefferson Community Foundation under the guidance of a team of community leaders. They’ve raised nearly $500,000 from our community which is being granted every week to organizations working the front lines of this crisis to provide food, housing and mental health support to those who most need it. The work the organizations that have received funding are doing is foundational to imagining a different future here in Jefferson County. What we are learning at this time will inform how we do things next.

I’ve seen amazing innovations & collaborations, large and small, being deployed by many members of our community over the past couple of months. For example:

  • All of our educational institutions have pivoted to online learning from Kindergarten teachers to high school classes to online programs such as those being taught by my colleagues at the Northwest Maritime Center and the NW School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
  • Collaboration between North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council, WSU Small Farms Program, North Olympic and Jefferson Land Trusts to establish The Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund will get more local produce into our food banks while supporting our working farmers.
  • The PUD deploying WIFI hotspots around the county and the Library encourages use of their WIFI to accommodate much of our lives - including schools and churches - moving online.
  • Finnriver firing up their grain mill and ramping up local grain sales as the Cidery went into life support, their grain becoming sustenance for this time.
  • There is creativity and growth in some of these pivots, like Dented Buoys drive through wood fired pizza in Chimacum.
  • And what about all of those gardens we’ve been planting? I even heard Roger Short was low on his Magical Dirt for a bit.


Many of these stretches of our personal and business practices are working now and are also the beginnings of a map for the future for ourselves and the community. An example from my work with our team at the Northwest Maritime Center is that our online programs have exposed us to a much broader audience of potential students. Our first online boatbuilding class had students from across the country. Another idea we are exploring is to move the 2020 Wooden Boat Festival to an online platform. With expanded programming and audience potential, it feels like an opportunity to expand exposure to all of our work just presented itself - for our entire community.

It is a time for mobilizing new ideas while maintaining our quality of life here. We need to steward the groundwork we’ve laid, beginning with Jefferson County’s founding in 1852. The roads and streets we maintain, the service of our judges, clerks and law enforcement officers, the parks we’ve come to rely on for recharging our batteries, the farms and habitat we’ve protected and all of the essential services and workers who have kept the heart of our local economy beating will be the foundation on which our collective future is built. On top of all the core services of life in Jefferson County which we depend on there is the character of our community embodied by the artists, eateries, theaters and small businesses which contributed immeasurably to the vitality of our community.

This is the biggest chance we have ever had to craft a new normal in our homes, with our friends, in the work we do and as a community of neighbors - young and old alike. Like all of you, I treasure what we have here in Jefferson County, but the reality is that our future is going to look different than any of us expected just a couple of months ago. I want to work with you to rebuild a more resilient community for the future - even if we’re six feet apart with masks on.



 


Heidi Eisenhour
Photo by Bill Curtsinger

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PO Box 338,Port Hadlock, WA 98339
(360) 643-1308  


For more information and to contact Heidi:
Email: heidi4commissioner@gmail.com
Phone: (360) 643-1308