As we head into the final weeks of 2020, I want to again thank you for your efforts during this less-than-ordinary time. A year ago, no one could have foreseen that we would spend months working under pandemic conditions, trying to continue to provide services during the most notable health event in a century. But that’s exactly what we have had to do, and we’ve done so successfully, thanks to each and every one of you.
Secondly, I would like to congratulate John Cobb on being named Colonel of our Law Enforcement Division. John was selected from a large pool of highly qualified candidates, many of whom did an outstanding job throughout a recruitment process that demonstrated the high level of individuals interested in the position. I look forward to working with Colonel Cobb as we move forward, and all that our Law Division staff will achieve with him. Also, a special thanks to Majors Naff and Young, who three and a half years ago accepted what was supposed to be a temporary assignment that turned out to be anything but that. Serving as Majors and filling the vacant Colonel’s duties at the same time (effectively doing a job and a half each) was no small task, and yet they brought a positive attitude to each day and carried the Law Division through.
Third, some of you may be aware that following a long Special Session, our state budget is finalized. As you will see further detailed in Planning and Finance’s update, our House Bill 38 and Watercraft Sales and Use Tax transfers are left in place at the levels included in the budget passed prior to the pandemic. This is favorable, considering the pandemic and budget impacts that it could have had. At the same time, our first quarter spending approximated our Board-approved budget for that period, and we still have a long way to go with COVID, so we will need to remain conservative. Still, you may have noticed we are moving to fill vacancies, and I hope to see us continue to catch up as time goes on.
Finally, a simple reminder that you’re all tired of hearing, but I feel the need to say again. Please keep your safety and that of others in the front of your mind each day. We are at an unfortunately interesting point with respect to COVID-19. On the one hand, things have largely reopened, and the public has tired of the “quarantine life”. On the other hand, cases are spiking nationally, and even in Virginia we have seen case numbers rise again. The next few months are forecast to be the toughest so far. Please continue to take this event with utmost seriousness. Social distance, wear your mask, use hand sanitizer, and complete the daily symptom checker prior to beginning work. Err on the cautious side—we do not want you in situations where you are uncomfortable, and we want you to be honest when reporting symptoms (which this time of year, could be simply the common cold, but we don’t know until that is confirmed). The daily reporting is for your safety and that of others; no other purpose. All state employees have been given leave to use for life events surrounding the pandemic; while our greatest strength is your dedication to getting your jobs done, please put safety first. I would much rather you keep yourself and your coworkers safe than find yourself in work situations where you are uncomfortable or place your coworkers in any potentially risky situation.
Stay healthy, have a great holiday season, and thanks again for all that you do!