This is a guest post by Monaé Satchell Nickerson, Vice Mayor of Dumfries, Virginia.
Dumfries, Virginia is a small town of around five thousand residents. If you don’t have a lot of experience with America’s small towns and municipalities, you may think a community like mine might be immune to the effects of a national event like the federal government shutdown. Unfortunately, you would be sadly mistaken.
I’ve had the great privilege of serving as Vice Mayor of Dumfries since September 2018, while also working as a federal contractor for a small, local minority-owned business. Wearing two hats in my everyday life has expanded my perspective and worldview, as I try to serve my community and determine the support I need as both a private citizen and contracted federal employee.
However, my dual roles in my community took on a new slant during the longest federal government shutdown in history. At a high level, there was no sustainability for local businesses, as many were forced to tap into their overhead and savings, incurring huge losses. Contractors did not receive pay during the shutdown and in my case, “stop work” orders were issued to reduce or fully stop contracting time.
I sought out public life in 2018 because I am driven by a deep commitment to my community and have always appreciated the reward and stress of making a difference for real people. As a local elected official, going through the shutdown was heartbreaking. My resolve was tested seeing residents struggling to make housing payments, food truck vendors suffering empty lines outside shuttered government buildings and federal contractors excluded from some support opportunities because they were not full government employees with the proper ID.
With the situation growing more and more dire by the day, local community leaders and I made a choice to act, to help those struggling by hosting a furloughed resource fair in late January, which was sponsored by local businesses and grocery stores. The fair was focused on information and resources for all residents impacted by the shutdown.
Though the 35-day shutdown has ended, we haven’t finished sorting through its negative impacts in our communities. I, for instance, have only just recently had my hours restored, but I know there are many other federal contractors that, unfortunately, don’t have an anticipated date for full reinstatement; everything is on a case by case basis determined by their employer and the agency for which they support.
The impact of the shutdown is real and is still being felt. Considering the uncertainty for another potential shutdown at the end of this week, I can only pray that communities like Dumfries are preparing for the worst; another government shutdown would compound on the disastrous effect on small businesses, contracted and federal employees and local economies seen during the first shutdown.
Any effort to shutter federal agencies would NOT be for cities, towns and villages. America’s communities understand the importance of legislative debate and national conversation, but a shutdown would hold our livelihoods and financial security hostage. Local leaders, we MUST call on the federal government to prevent another shutdown at all costs on behalf of our residents and communities. Let us do what we do best and keep America moving forward.
About the Author: Monaé Satchell Nickerson is Vice Mayor of Dumfries, Virginia. On May 1st, 2018 Monaé was elected to Dumfries Town Council in her first electoral race and was subsequently appointed, by her peers, as Dumfries’ Vice Mayor. Being Dumfries’ first black female Vice Mayor is important to Monaé because it shows progression towards diversity and female equality. As Vice Mayor, Monaé is working to create and provide community programs for social and economic empowerment through skills and knowledge and she encourages her constituents to get involved in improving their communities and not just to complain, but to contribute. In addition to serving as Vice Mayor, Monaé continues to serve on both the Architectural review board and the board of directors for the Keep it Moving organization and she works full-time as a Human Capital Consultant advising clients on human capital strategies that align with their organizational needs.