Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s decisive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have saved countless lives and countless jobs. She is whom we need leading Salt Lake County as we recover and rebuild, and that’s why Wilson will have my vote when I return my ballot this week.
When state leaders stood back and declined to take bold action to slow the spread of the virus this spring, Wilson stepped up. Listening to the advice of epidemiologists, monitoring the data, and heeding the best science available, Wilson issued a stay-at-home order throughout the county. Having made the same choice for Salt Lake City, I know just how difficult that choice was. And how consequential.
While hospitals in Washington and California were overrun with COVID-19 patients praying their next breath would not be their last, we used the time to bend the curve locally, stock up on personal protective equipment, and ramp up the epidemiological infrastructure we needed to slow the pandemic’s spread.
When the science became clear that face coverings were the key to preventing community spread of the virus and helping customers feel more confident to enter businesses, Wilson made them a requirement throughout the county. Salt Lake City’s government moved aggressively to ensure widespread adoption across the city.
When cases surged on Salt Lake City’s west side, Wilson and the county health department set up a testing site to help get the outbreak under control.
With local businesses often unable to participate in federal programs and struggling to stay open, Wilson put $40 million into grants for Salt Lake County small businesses, a much appreciated supplement to the grant program we were able to create for businesses in the capital city.
With the likelihood of infections spreading rapidly through the county’s homeless population, Wilson arranged safe quarters for the most vulnerable.
Before our kids returned to school, and even though education is not actually part of the county mayor’s jurisdiction, Wilson sent more than $11 million to Salt Lake County schools to help them purchase PPE and laptop computers.
Wilson has looked out for us and, at every turn, backed up the city as we’ve tried to keep residents safe and businesses operating.
None of these actions was easy or convenient, but they were necessary. Wilson wrestled a large, unwieldy and fairly untested bureaucracy into a profound force for good for the county and the state. Her 10 years of service on the County Council and relationships with leaders throughout the county prepared her to lead in a way little else could.
That’s how she was able to cut her office’s budget by 14% in her first year and how the county will preserve its triple-A bond rating after years of inflation and the COVID-19 recession.
One of the first things Wilson did after being sworn in was create an office of environmental services with the mandate of improving our air quality. She is modernizing the county government’s fleet with energy-efficient vehicles and lowering the energy use of county-owned buildings. To help reduce the pollution generated by commuter traffic after the pandemic wanes, Wilson will allow county employees who can work from home to do so more often and on “red” air quality days.
As a breather of our air, a parent of children breathing our air, and as someone who came into politics as a clean-air advocate, I believe it’s important that the county be led by someone actually committed to the cause and with a proven record of keeping us safe. That’s Wilson.
Erin Mendenhall is the mayor of Salt Lake City.