As a new county legislator sworn in on Jan. 6, 2020, I just had time to figure out the layout of the Board Room, stash gum in my desk drawer and choose whether to say “aye” or “yes” to vote for the cascade of bills coming out of the legislative process before COVID-19 shut down the normal functioning of the Westchester Board of Legislators in mid-March 2020.

It was two-plus years of hard campaigning that brought me to this new job. Campaigns are whirlwinds of fundraising, knocking on doors and shaking hands at train stations, and there must be a quiet time after election, a settling in and a satisfaction of a race well run, right?

Not exactly.

As a new legislator in COVID-19, it’s like reading the manual while flying the airplane. No one in office has seen a shutdown like this before, and lives and livelihoods are at stake.

Westchester County was hit first and hard by New York’s COVID-19 outbreak. We have watched our cases spike and our hospital staff bear the brunt of new practices and a rush of patients. Disparities in income and race are exacerbated, and our food pantry lines are long. Mental health is suffering as we see the weeks grow into months indoors with family, apart from friends and colleagues. New Yorkers are productive people, and it’s stressful mentally as well as financially to stay put.

Still, Westchester is known for community cohesiveness, for volunteerism and for trust in local government. We wear masks and we social distance and we learn to cook at home. Children are riding their bicycles after online classes end for the day.

As we adjust to a possible long-term change in the economy and look to our national leaders to support the states hit hardest by COVID-19 (as billions have always flowed to states afflicted with fire, flood, and earthquakes), I am privileged to be a voice for my 55,000 constituents. Steering our communities through this experience requires coordination, cooperation and bipartisan goodwill. Westchester will emerge stronger as we practice good governance and craft good policies for the future.

Ruth Walter ’88
Bronxville, N.Y.