What We’re Thankful For In (or Despite of) 2020

Posted on November 23, 2020

Image with Thankful in Center surrounded by fall leaves

This article is written by Brian Smith, Polco / National Research Center.

Gratitude in this year of all years?

A global pandemic. Millions unemployed. Natural disasters. Racially-aggravated police violence and riots. A divisive election season. It’d be quite understandable if the idea of gratitude had slipped your mind.

Despite what this year has become, I asked the team at Polco about what they are grateful for heading into the Thanksgiving season. Polco is an online civic engagement and survey research platform that helps local governments bring community members and leaders together.

Our team reports feeling thankful for the unity seen among the local government community and gratitude for leadership that endures despite unrest and upheaval. In many cases around the nation, our team witnessed local government shining a bright light in an otherwise dark year.

Here’s what our team had to say about what makes them thankful this season:

Michelle headshot

“I am grateful that the local politics in my community are much more civil than we see in the national discourse. We can actually work together to address tangible community needs because the opportunities for collaboration and compromise are more easily identified locally.” – Michelle Kobayashi, Senior Vice President of Innovation




Alex headshot

“In a year where it seems the only constant is the steady flow of new challenges, I’m immensely grateful for the transparency my City of Chicago has shown throughout the year. While it hasn’t always been easy, it has always felt like we had all the information local leaders had, and could follow the decision-making process as it unfolded.” – Alex Pedersen, CTO & CFO




heather headshot

“We have a vibrant corridor down Main Street in the City of Longmont, Colo. We are grateful and delighted that the City blocked off a lane on both sides of the street to make space for local businesses and restaurants to expand outdoors. The City is responsive to our changing economic and safety needs. They are level-headed and reasonable about what we can and what we can’t do to keep residents as healthy as possible.” – Heather Locke, Client Development Manager




Brian Headshot

“As a former journalist, I often saw empty city hall meetings, and little if any political participation from ordinary folks. This year, I’ve seen an overwhelming interest from my neighbors and fellow residents in the decisions that local governments are making. I think the pandemic has awoken many people to the fact that local governments have a tremendous impact on their lives. I’m grateful for that and hopeful that sentiment will carry forward.” – Brian Smith, Marketing & Communications Manager




Ann headshot

“I am extremely thankful for the leadership in our school district. They have been quick to react and plan for change. Communication has come by email, text messages, phone calls and website to be sure everyone has the latest information. Learning assistance and meals are still provided for those students and families who need it most. It is obvious the well-being of the students and teachers is the top priority of Boulder Valley School District.” – Ann Michelle Hill, Office Manager




Angelica headshot

“I think we can all agree that 2020 has been quite the year. But I think hard times have shown us the character and quality of local government leaders rising to the occasion. You’ve logged in extra hours. You’ve had to juggle concerns for your own safety and families along with extreme workloads. You’ve put every effort into connecting with your residents and each other. Your hard work keeps our communities afloat. I don’t even want to think about where things would be, if it weren’t for all of you, busting your tails behind the scenes. I know it can be a thankless job sometimes. But today, we’re saying THANK YOU!” – Angelica Wedell, Marketing & Communications Director



Matt headshot

“With all of the significant issues impacting our daily lives, I am thankful to live in a professionally run community that focuses on keeping residents safe and the local business community strong. For those experiencing heath, economic, and/or other personal wellbeing impacts, City staff are committed to making decisions and taking actions that will help mitigate and correct these difficulties. This strengthens my confidence and faith for our futures.” – Matt Fulton, Vice President of National Engagement




Julia Headshot

“I’ve been so grateful to learn about all the innovative and resilient ways that communities around the country have responded in difficult times. This is my first job working with local governments. Learning all your stories has given me a great perspective on the power of what responsive and creative local governments can do.” – Julia Steege-Reimann, Marketing & Communications Coordinator




About the Author:

Brian Smith serves as the marketing and communications manager for Polco / National Research Center (NRC), and brings five years experience in communications to the team. A proud ELGL member, Polco is committed to bringing the voices of all residents into the civic process through surveys and online engagement. These public input tools and solutions help local governments make better, more informed decisions.

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