In The Rear-View Mirror, My First Year On Council

Tess Neff, Lakewood City Councilwoman Ward 1.

Exhilarated was how I felt beginning year 2020. I was starting a new job. It was an honor to have been elected to Lakewood City Council, and I was eager to delve into the work the voters hired me to do. Sitting on the dais with my fellow councilmembers felt right. Observing the public members in the auditorium, engaging in conversations prior to and after the meetings was a highlight for me. Their interest in our community truly is quite amazing, and I often wondered why some of those people did not run for council. Maybe it is the long hours and extended time commitment. I knew the work would be intense and time consuming. What I did not know was that I would be a part of history in a way no one could fathom.   

My first-year experience on council is nothing short of stunning, difficult, painful, and yet tremendous. There were many “first” decisions that council and the city had to make without the benefit or precedent of past data or experience for comparison. The pandemic invaded and abruptly disrupted our lives. Candidly, there were times that I worried because we were navigating unchartered territory. As a councilmember my resolve was to make decisions that were in the best interest of our residents, and community. We were determined to labor through the pervasive situation that the unwelcomed guest presented to us. Together we persevered and kept Lakewood operating as best we could.   

It became profoundly clear to me that it was the little things that mattered to people. Folks wanted to be able to work, they wanted their business to stay afloat, they wanted to feel safe in the community, and they wanted to survive the tidal wave. It was the city leadership’s responsibility to alleviate the anxiety and anger people were experiencing. I often lost sleep thinking if only we had a blueprint as a guide, but none existed. We were obligated to create it. What is incredibly gratifying to me is how the city administration, community partners and city council collectively worked together to meet the needs of our community in the best way we knew at the time.  

It was during those early months I became confident our city would survive the catastrophic times that were thrust upon us. Ironically, the concerns and complaints I received from constituents were a breath of fresh air. It was my pleasure to seek solutions for them because every concern is important. The individuals I engaged and the relationships I fostered working with residents and the various city departments are invaluable. 2020 delivered many positives in Lakewood in a world of negatives: infrastructure improvements continued; progress on development projects resumed; CARES Act funding supplemented decreased revenues; a park was dedicated in celebration of 100 years for women’s right to vote; rent relief and small business loans were distributed; and bike lanes were installed. We should all be grateful and proud that we are able to look back at 2020 and realize it is in our rearview mirror. We are Lakewood, we are special, and I recognize all the hard work that lies ahead. Thank you for your patience and support during this past year.   

Tess Neff

I am a 30-year Lakewood resident. My husband Rich and I raised our children here and we both have worked in the community. I love Lakewood and its uniqueness.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 7:38 PM, 03.03.2021