During his annual State of the County, Judge-Executive Al Mattingly addressed the hardships faced by the community over the last year, as well as the positive outcomes that were perpetuated by a strong government and community in Daviess County.
Mattingly’s message was streamed virtually during Thursday’s Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce Rooster Booster event.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the “hot topic” for 2020, Mattingly noted, saying it would continue to be a top issue for the foreseeable future.
“Keeping our citizens healthy and informed, as well as providing a safe work environment for our employees, is number one on our list of priorities,” he said.
Mattingly listed the numerous ways Daviess County Fiscal Court had extended a helping hand to its citizens, which included providing face masks and personal protective equipment to small businesses, providing financial relief to bars and restaurants, extending the due date for net profit license fees, and delaying a scheduled increase in occupational taxes.
Fiscal Court also provided $150,000 in a joint City/County effort to provide COVID-19 relief funds that were dispersed through Daviess County’s local United Way branch, Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the County was in good standing fiscally, as “Fiscal Court delivered a balanced budget in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.”
Other noteworthy projects the County had successfully completed included the Regional REAL ID Center, implementing a new $6 million communications system for first responders, building a new ADA-compliant playground at Horse Fork Creek Park, and achieving a successful first season with the reopening of the Daviess County Gun Club.
Still, Mattingly said Fiscal Court was facing its fair share of challenges in the coming year. Some of those challenges included funding the County’s pension program, competing with the private sector in hiring qualified employees, making sure public safety needs were taken care of, and working with the citizens of Whitesville and Owensboro.
Mattingly — who later also said he continued to support a county-wide nondiscrimination ordinance — said the County was continually pushing for diversity in the workplace, but that a lot of that depended on the applicants that came through.
“We can only hire someone who applies, and we can only appoint someone who volunteers and is willing to serve,” he said. “In my opinion, [the nondiscrimination ordinance] is a community image issue and a workforce recruiting issue. Until two Daviess County commissioners ask it to be placed on the agenda, I don’t see it going anywhere.”
Mattingly also said he hoped the Confederate monument currently on the Courthouse lawn would be relocated by the second quarter of 2021, saying the proposed relocation sites still needed to be vetted.
In looking forward to a new year, Mattingly reflected on the division and racism that plagued so much of 2020, saying we lived in a world “designed to divide us into small factions” that made people afraid to listen to opinions from the other side. These actions, he said, were unhealthy for a healthy democracy and for a growing, progressive community.
“We live in a world reading and listening to those who only agree with our own beliefs, which in turn reinforces our ideas, thus isolating ourselves to our own little clique. We argue about what’s real and what’s not,” he said. “The right blames the left. The left blames the right. Millennials blame Boomers. Blacks blame the Whites, while the Whites blame immigrants. The poor blames the rich, and the rich blames the government. It seems everybody needs someone to blame for what’s happening to them.”
Mattingly said in order to reverse these mindsets of assigning blame and division, the community would have to learn to keep the faith, change their hearts, and travel the high road.
“If we lose faith, if we lose hope, if we fail to love our fellow human being, then hatred and racism and discrimination and intolerance win,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”