We have been so fortunate in Floyd compared to other communities over the past 10 years. We have enjoyed success and growth. We have avoided empty storefronts and have benefited from our local entrepreneurial spirit in creating a sustainable economy while remaining true to ourselves. Our people are our biggest strength and remain the primary reason people want to visit our home. It has been a joy to take part in as a resident, a business owner, and as the mayor.
Our local economy showed no signs of slowing down and we all looked forward to spring and the start of a new season. Then COVID-19 arrived and our “normal” became different. On March 7, 2020, my wife, Misty, and I attended a 40th birthday celebration of our close friend, Travis, along with a group of about 40 friends. It is unreal to think that this was the last time we were in a group of people that large and it was only just a month ago. So much changed so quickly, and I miss my friends.
The thought of Spring for me is usually dominated by the end of tax season as I am a CPA, as well as the promise of warmer weather and the upcoming Masters golf tournament. For some of our youth, this is the season of “Senioritis” and the rush of spring sports. I loved my time at FCHS and am hurting for the class of 2020 to have had senior memories taken away from them. For our business owners, this is the calm before the storm of “tourist season”. Many of us wait in anticipation for the lineup announcements of our beloved FloydFest. We wait the first warm Friday Night Jamboree on our streets, and the kickoff of our very own Farmers Market.
The Spring of 2020 is unfortunately not going to be dominated by that.
My wife is an educator and a part of the Floyd County Public School System. She has more close friends that are teachers and administrators than I can count. My friends Don and Ron are emergency room nurses. Larry delivers the mail. We all know someone at Slaughters, Food Lion, Xpress Market, or one of our other essential-need businesses. As much as our lives have changed, think about those people, the ones whose lives have been drastically redirected. Thank you seems almost inappropriate and underwhelming.
I think a lot about the people that have made our town into what it is. What has been created over time in our half a square mile town has become the envy of not only Southwest Virginia but the entire Commonwealth. Those people that took the risk to invest in our community are most definitely going to feel economic pain. It is my hope that their businesses will survive and can thrive again. When this cloud clears, and it will, our mantra must become “Shop Local”. Ask yourself whose door you knocked on when you needed a contribution for a church fundraiser or for your child’s sport team? Those people are going to need to knock on our doors and we must help in any way we can.
As Mayor, my job has been easy for 10 years. My approach has normally been to get out of the way and let things develop as they should. Trust in the people to make good decisions for our town and Floyd County. But today, there is a feeling of helplessness and stress. There are no magic buttons to push or words to say. My faith says things will be okay and that all of this is not the “new normal” but the “now normal”. Faith and each other are all that we have to rely on in this moment. It is encouraging to me in that we have always had each other’s back in times of need. Can you think of one single time that our community did not answer the call? Me either, and it will do so again.
Please take care of yourselves and each other. Follow social distancing guidelines. Stay at home. Do what you can for your neighbor. Take care of our elderly to whom we owe so much. Love one another and be kind. Most importantly, when all of this is over, continue to act the way you did when you were getting through this. Maybe that is the silver lining of it all, that we become better people with more compassion and understanding of the needs in our community.
I invite each of you to join us for a carefree stroll on our new town sidewalks once we are free to enjoy each other’s company again.
With much love,
Mayor Will Griffin