The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays said the city made a “seamless transition” to governing remotely after starting the pandemic with a few difficult months as it adapted to the situation.
“I think the key is that this was the first time anybody had gone through this,” Mays said. “This is brand new for everybody, but I think — over a period of time — we’ve adapted quite well.”
Mays said a sense of relief has been felt in the city as case and hospitalization numbers have dropped and restrictions have been eased. He said people have been encouraged by vaccine rollouts and he has faith in local healthcare workers to vaccinate as many as possible in the coming months.
He said the pandemic put a damper on momentum which had been building in The Dalles, particularly downtown.
“I thought downtown was picking up and some of the things we had envisioned for downtown and for the rest of the community were coming to fruition, but the COVID crisis — pretty much like it has everywhere — stopped that dead in its tracks,” Mays said.
“I think now with things loosening up, if they continue the way they are with vaccines and with the lower numbers, I’m confident The Dalles will get back to where we were a year ago,” he said.
Mays said his personal style is “more face-to-face,” and he misses the “coffees with the mayor” meetings he used to host once or twice a month.
He said meeting individuals for coffee had been a good way to meet people since moving to The Dalles in 2015 and becoming mayor in 2018. “I’ve probably done that almost 300 times,” he said.
“I didn’t really know anybody when I was considering running for mayor, and my having coffee with people all over the city — and with different people — gave me a chance to not only meet new people but also to ask them what they thought was important for the city,” Mays said. “So it was very valuable to me before I ran for mayor and after I ran for mayor and after I got elected.”
Mays said the Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) deal being negotiated now to allow Google to expand its facilities in The Dalles would be a “step in the right direction” toward getting development of the city back on track.
Mays credited local essential workers, who he called “true heroes,” for their work during the pandemic.
“The police department and the firefighters, they get a fair amount of credit, it’s pretty well-known. I continue to be amazed at our particular police department here in The Dalles and what they’ve had to put up with over the year,” he said. “But the grocery store is a good example of people who you don’t really think about as much as we should and how they’ve really stepped up and tried to make our lives as easy as possible.”
Mays said the city had distributed $200,000 in relief funds, broken up into two rounds of awards. The first round split $100,000 between around 65 businesses while the second offered the same amount of money specifically to restaurants and fitness centers. Funds also went to non-profits including Salvation Army, Point Man Ministries and Windy River Gleaners.