Phil Fisher, DDE ’03
I am the Mayor of Clinton, MS, a City of 26,000 people (13th largest in the state) and located in Hinds County. Hinds County has the highest reported cases of coronavirus in MS. Three weeks ahead of our governor’s order to “shelter in place,” I began my own “shelter in place” policy by closing all City parks, canceling all meetings at public facilities, allowing curb-side restaurant service only, and discouraging any gathering of more than 10 people. I sent City employees in the most threatened brackets and office employees home, making use of computer technology to continue their work. While police and fire continued their shifts, I sent the detectives and trainers home to serve as a reserve — if needed due to illness. I cut public works to a skeleton crew, working on infrastructure (water/sewer/potholes) only. The result has been a lower level of Coronavirus than comparable cities in the state. After the health of the citizens, my next concern was the economy of the City. We have a large population of educators, and government employees and their paychecks would continue even if sent home. So my focus was on the business community and the private sector employees. Small business employers did not understand the new federal government’s assistance programs and the state unemployment office was overwhelmed. Of interest, the state unemployment office increased their phone lines from 250 to 900 and, at 15-20 minutes per call, were still unable to process all the calls. We began a web campaign to inform the public as the crisis progressed and hosted “live streams” to inform people with detailed information on topics other than “shelter in place”. These streams were posted on the City web page for future viewing. The first was for small businesses and the process to sign up for the various programs including the paying of employees. To date, 38,000 viewers have watched that stream. The second involved the Speaker of the MS House (topic–unemployment/other state agencies), the State Epidemiologist (topic–health care update) and the Agriculture Commissioner (topic– large animal care/pets). Seven TV stations throughout MS carried the event live and posted it on their web pages. We received questions from every corner of the state. In addition, our Department of Therapeutic Recreation continues their daily exercise programs and the Director of the Train Depot has a daily craft project and/or reading for the children by guest volunteers on our website. Finally, I volunteered the City as a coronavirus testing site so that Clinton could assist in the statewide efforts to identify those infected. The USAWC influence played a tremendous role as I worked through the process at the strategic level, allowing my department heads to execute the directives and manage the operational aspects of our actions.
BG (Ret) Philip R. ‘Phil’ Fisher
Distance Class of 2003
Seminar Group 20
Mayor, City of Clinton, Mississippi