If we hadn’t experienced it first hand, I doubt many of us would have believed the bizarre twists and turns of the year 2020. I wouldn’t even have believed it as the plot of a gritty Back to the Future reboot. I almost bought a “2020 flickering dumpster fire” Christmas tree ornament, just so I would believe my own memories years from now. But, here we are in 2021. The calendar really did roll over, thanks be to God. So what does the coming year hold for Denton?
We begin 2021 under the leadership of our new mayor, Gerard Hudspeth. Mayor Hudspeth grew up here in Denton and had a front row seat to all the growth, challenges, downturns, and prosperity our city has seen in recent decades. He has a deep understanding of what makes Denton special, strong ties to our business community, and a real commitment to the people of our town. As a proud DHS Bronco myself, I am particularly honored that my fellow Council Members have elected me to serve alongside Mayor Hudspeth as Mayor Pro Tempore.
Significantly, Mayor Hudspeth is also Denton’s first black mayor. If you are familiar with the racial history of Denton, especially the story of Quakertown, then you understand how historic it is that we have elected a black man who lives in the Southeast Denton neighborhood to represent us all.
We also begin the year with two new City Council Members, Birdia Johnson of District 1 and Connie Baker of District 2. Both are familiar and active volunteers in Denton, with long records of service to our community.
Even with vaccines becoming available, in 2021 the newly constituted City Council will continue to tackle challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. We still have a dangerously high number of COVID-19 cases. And while the overall Denton economy is strong, many local small businesses remain in dire straits. Thousands of residents lost their jobs in 2020, or were furloughed indefinitely. Some have returned to work, but many haven’t.
One of the most important steps we have taken during this crisis is attempting to prevent the spread of the disease by housing the homeless and preventing others from becoming homeless. The City of Denton helped lead homelessness prevention initiatives which totaled more than $6.5 million in Denton County by the end of 2020. We were able to do so by using federal grant money and partnering with non-profits like the United Way, the Salvation Army, and Grace Like Rain. The vast majority of this money went to rental and utility assistance, which not only helps folks remain housed but also injects that money into the local economy. Additional funding is on the way for 2021.