Much like the rest of the country, the city of Brentwood has faced its own share of hardships during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Consider the cancellation of city staples like the annual Summer Concert Series as just a few examples of the municipal disruptions created by the pandemic.
Mayor Rhea Little, who was elected to the City Commission in 2009 and appointed mayor in 2019, said despite the tough times- many of which he argued were yet to come - he remained hopeful that some semblance of normalcy could be achieved in 2021.
In this interview with the Home Page, Little looked back on one of the most challenging years in modern history, as well as looked to the future in what he said looked promising.
Questions from the Home Page are paraphrased.
What do you think was the city of Brentwood's greatest accomplishment was in 2020?
I'm going to say the biggest accomplishment of Brentwood has been the fact that our community - even in the midst of a horrendous pandemic, in the midst of losing one of our police officers, and all the many challenges that come from that - has stayed strong and committed to one another.
The fact that Brentwood has always been fiscally responsible has helped us weather this storm in good stead. I think the mass majority of Brentwood citizens have done what is necessary to love their neighbor as they try to follow the different guidelines to mitigate the ramifications of this COVID-19 pandemic.
I've been very proud as I've gone about at how good people have really tried to do the right thing in Brentwood.
What was the greatest challenge in 2020?
Probably continuing to keep the message out there as people become weary of all the different things the pandemic has caused; health reasons, disruptions to all of our normal habits. And yet even amidst this, I've been really proud of how our citizens have adapted and have tried to keep joy in their life even when things are not normal - there's nothing normal about this.
What role do you feel Brentwood leadership plays during the pandemic?
To make sure to keep our first responders safe so that they can keep the public safe. Whatever good and useful information we receive to help protect people from the virus, to make sure that's out in the public. [And] to lead by setting a good example of yourself in your day-to-day activities.
Do you think Brentwood events will return this year?
Of course it was heartbreaking that we had to cancel our concerts because I attended those years before I ever became a commissioner, but it would have been more heartbreaking to have had a large contagion event, so [we] had to make that decision.
It's hard at this point to say [whether we'll see events return this year], but due to the fact that we've got vaccines - which are not going to stop it immediately, but will help - my hope is by the time we get to early summer we may be able to have those events in a safe way.
What will be the city's focus this year?
We're very excited about our police headquarters, it should open in April of [this year]. We'll also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of our police department, which is an internationally accredited police department, which is a great and a rare thing.
Of course we're hoping to get a lot more work done on Franklin Road, but it'll probably be into 2022 before it's completed. Our fifth [fire] station, we're hoping to maybe break ground on it [this year], off of Split Log Road. Having that fifth fire department out there will be a real benefit to the east side of Brentwood which is still growing.
The fire department station number five will be built about the time it's needed - not after it's needed, but about the time it's needed. That's a real blessing as a city when you can plan out and you actually have your public safety facilities being built at about the time that they're needed to be built.
Last year proved incredibly difficult for many Brentwood residents. What might you say to those who are continuing to struggle?
Everyone is continuing to do what they need to do; if they can work from home, they do it... socially distance, wearing their mask. My sense is that as we get passed this second wave, we go into [this year] with a lot of hope as the vaccine is starting to be administered.
There's a lot of hope, and we've come so far through a very hard time, and I feel like now we are headed to better days. We don't need to let our guard down, but victory is in sight now. We just need to continue the battle, continue to love our neighbor and be cautious and protective.
Our hearts go out to all those who have lost family and friends - me included, I've lost a couple good friends - our hearts go out to them. It's tough.