On Wednesday, Chamber members and community partners gathered online for a unique virtual State of the County address from Bexar County Judge and former Chamber Board Chair Nelson Wolff. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Judge Wolff centered his address on how Bexar County will recover, reopen, and rebuild going forward.
As the event’s premier sponsor, AT&T’s JD Salinas introduced Judge Wolff, praising him for his leadership and management of the county’s COVID-19 response. Judge Wolff led his address by detailing how the county maneuvered the spread of the virus, from the initial stay home orders in March, the major spikes in the summer, and the current status in October. According to Judge Wolff, the number of cases in San Antonio dropped and stabilized following the reimplementation of the mask mandate and other local measures. However, he warned of the double whammy of COVID-19 overlapping with the annual flu season.
“As you know, we’re probably in the most trying of times in San Antonio,” Judge Wolff said. “We’re going to make sure we come back from all this the right way.” He also shared the details of Bexar County’s $9 million restabilization plan, which includes funds for technology, workforce, and small business support.
On the topic of COVID-19, he explained how the virus has complicated the 2020 election and social distancing at the polls. However, he praised Gov. Greg Abbott for the expansion of early voting, the measures taken by county staff, and the patriotic fervor of the voting populace.
“I’ve never seen people so enthusiastic to vote,” he said. “A huge vote. Our responsibility is to make it as safe as possible. We’re doing about it the best we can.”
In the county’s own affairs, Judge Wolff revealed a portion of county staff will continue to work remotely full or part time permanently on the basis of increased freedom for staff to spend time with their families without sacrificing productivity, citing the same success found in online university students.
Around the community, Judge Wolff explained the difficulties of several industries returning to their pre-COVID level of success, particularly tourism, airlines, and the convention business. However, he lauded the expansion of the home building business, which is experiencing a boom during the stay home orders. To help shore up this new normal of working and studying from home in the long term, Bexar County has already made technology and home connectivity a major priority, aiming for all residents to have reliable access to the Internet at home. In addition, Judge Wolff announced the development of a new BiblioTech library at CAST Tech High School, and praised his wife and Bexar County’s first lady Tracy Wolff for having already raised $1 million for the project.
Echoing his 2019 address, Judge Wolff reaffirmed Bexar County’s commitment to manufacturing job training and bringing quality manufacturing jobs to Texas, such as current industry titans Toyota and Caterpillar. He praised the city’s success in cybersecurity, particularly with respect to the installations at Brooks and Port San Antonio. Perhaps most importantly during COVID-19, Bexar County’s medical industry continues to offer state of the art care and facilities for residents and veterans.
San Antonio Chamber President & CEO Richard Perez began the Q&A session by asking about how Bexar County is helping shore up the mental health of folks stuck at home during quarantine. Wolff lamented the rise in domestic violence cases during the summer, while also giving credit to our local public schools for providing a great level of support to students and their families.
Judge Wolff defended SAWS and CPS and criticized the current petition drives to recall and restructure the public utilities. “If they do something like this, they are jeopardizing our utilities, because it only takes one vote in the legislature to open the door to competition, which will ruin our municipal government’s ability to bring power and water to our community,” he said.
Lastly, he insisted residents take the necessary measures to protect their health this flu season and get their flu shots.
To watch the recording of this, click here.