COVID-19 One Year Later: A Note from Clermont’s Interim City Manager
One year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world as we knew it upside down.
Since then, over 600 Lake County residents have died of this unprecedented disease, including our own Clermont Police Officer Conrad Buckley; to their loved ones, I offer my most heartfelt condolences. Over 26,000 Lake County residents have survived COVID, and some still suffer lingering health effects.
Our residents and business owners have been challenged in new ways, but as Champions, we came together to support each other and pull through.
While we have made much progress with research, treatment and vaccinations, things certainly are not yet fully back to “normal.”
Last March, we declared a local state of emergency, canceled events and programs and closed facilities. While we continue to operate under a local state of emergency, we are happy to have safely brought back many events and programs and reopened facilities.
I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the city’s victories this past year, despite all the hardships.
For one, we pivoted to quickly implement technology in helpful new ways. We started holding semi-virtual City Council meetings when needed. The Building Services Department began offering digital home inspections. We introduced an electronic signature option for our contracts and other documents. We held our first virtual ceremonies for 9/11 and Light Up Clermont, did photo challenges and launched Virtual Bingo and a Virtual Chess Club to keep our community connected.
The City of Clermont also wrapped its arms around our business community. We waived permit fees and offered public right-of-ways for restaurants adding outdoor seating. We encouraged shopping and dining locally with special promotions. We launched Rise Clermont, a major initiative to support our community’s economic recovery.
We also formed strong bonds as we united under a common cause. We worked together to assist neighboring cities, the county and the health department at testing and vaccination sites. We shared community members’ messages encouraging safety measures. We participated in the region-wide Bells of Thanks event to thank those on the frontlines. Our employees donated food to those in need, and the Clermont Youth Council donated care packs to the homeless.
In the midst of the pandemic, our departments also achieved the following noteworthy milestones:
- The city maintained its tax rate for the sixth consecutive year, continuing to have one of the lowest tax rates in Central Florida among cities of comparable size.
- Crime dropped 14% in the city for 2020, the biggest decrease we've seen.
- Phase 1 of our Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan streetscape project was completed, improving Osceola Street and West Avenue; and the Art Walk was completed, encouraging better pedestrian connectivity in the core of our downtown.
- Our fire department earned its first ever ISO Class 1 public protection classification, which lowers insurance costs for local businesses
- Our police department implemented a body camera program, increasing transparency and accountability for officers and the public.
I hope you can look back on this past year and find something to celebrate, too. I applaud the Clermont community for its continued strength and resilience.
Thank you, Champions.
Susan C. Dauderis
Interim City Manager