Cheryl Everett

Governing at the local level is never easy.

Moving the needle toward even a small accomplishment usually takes patience, extraordinary diplomatic skills and putting numerous egos aside to arrive at a “common good.”

So it was with Rio Rancho’s recent announcement of a COVID vaccination site at the city’s events center.

I was one of 5,000 local residents vaccinated March 15. The event was a totally positive experience.

I was in and out in less than an hour. Volunteer traffic directors and vaccine administrators were cheerful, respectful and professional.

Those of us being immunized against the virus chatted and congratulated each other in the highest of spirits.

Enter Murphy’s Law: “If something can go wrong, it will.”

A few individuals were able to “jump the line” March 15 and get vaccinated simply by showing up without an appointment. They then gladly spread that news via social media to other would-be “gamers” of the system.

The latter showed up March 17 by the hundreds, causing the rightful vaccinees hours-long delays. The snafu was then emblazoned on TV news broadcasts and newspaper headlines that eclipsed the achievement of March 15.

Many of us shared the sentiment of Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull when he commented, “There were hundreds of health-care workers and volunteers who worked from sunup to after sundown at this event to vaccinate as many people as they could (roughly 5,200, making it Sandoval County’s largest event to date). And for that I say thank you.”

In perspective, The Associated Press reports that recent expansion of vaccine availability has strained immunization capacity in many parts of the country.

It’s easy for naysayers to criticize government for events gone awry. I propose that instead, we celebrate not only the dedicated volunteers but also some of the government heroes who made expanded vaccination available in our community that week, and will continue to in the weeks ahead.

Both city and county emergency managers coordinated with Walgreens, the New Mexico Department of Health and city events center staff on logistics for the community immunizations March 15 and 17.

City Emergency Manager Theresa Greeno worked hard to ensure all event functions were carried out as efficiently as possible.

Through a contract with the events center, the city provided emergency medical services and public safety services, plus additional police for traffic control March 17 as the site became busier throughout the day. Parking lot volunteers offered wheelchairs to patients with walking difficulties.

County Emergency Manager Seth Muller — named 2020 Emergency Manager of the Year by the state Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management Division — acted even before the COVID pandemic to train all county employees on emergency preparedness according to state standards. The county now has its own vaccination site in its Emergency Operations Center north of Idalia Road.

As I’ve said before in this column space: “It takes a village” — working together for the common good — to have a healthy community, especially when a national emergency and human nature threaten public health and safety.

(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)