At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Employee Excellence webpage was created to recognize the resiliency, innovative solutions and adaptability of employees who have helped ensure Chesterfield County Government remains open for business throughout the ongoing public health crisis.
As the county continues to address the pandemic while safely reopening its doors to the public, this webpage will be updated with the stories of those employees recognized by County Administration Dr. Joe Casey at the monthly Board of Supervisors meetings for exemplifying everyday excellence in service to the county.
This video serves as a thank you to our county employees who have modified and adapted to continue providing everyday excellence to our citizens during COVID-19 and beyond. We stand ready to serve you!
- Everyday Excellence: Danny Gutshall
- Everyday Excellence: Claire Lau
- Everyday Excellence: Department of Real Estate Assessments
- Everyday Excellence: Jim Poff
- HR and IST: Teleworking
- CCPL: Story Time
- Treasurer's Office
- Parks and Recreation: Redeployments
- Fleet Services
- Fire and EMS
- Henricus Historical Park
- Mental Health Support Services
- Parks and Recreation: Virtual Recreation Programs
- Juvenile Detention Home: Greenhouse
- Telephone Reassurance Program
- Chesterfield County Farmers Market
- Circuit Court Clerk
- CCPL: Blood Drive
- Cooperative Extension: Master Gardeners
- Registrar's Office
- CCPL: Makerspace
- Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Learning and Performance Center
- Building Inspection
Everyday Excellence: Danny Gutshall
(Information Systems Technology)
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23, County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey, Chief Information Officer Barry Condrey and Chief Judge Edward Robbins Jr. recognized Danny Gutshall as September’s Everyday Excellence honoree.
In March, the threat of COVID-19 – and safety measures like social distancing needed to combat it – transformed the way Chesterfield County does business. Virtually all areas of governmental services have been affected and virtually all employees have had to adapt to continue serving the public. The courts system is no exception.
Gutshall, a senior microcomputer analyst embedded with the court system, has coordinated the installation of major courtroom audio and video upgrades that have allowed some trials and legal proceedings to continue despite COVID-19. Video systems upgrades have now placed Chesterfield County in the statewide Supreme Court of Virginia video system, which Gutshall said provides local courts easier, broader access to justice systems across the commonwealth. The benefits are numerous, including reducing the number of incarcerated people who need to be physically transferred to courtrooms from jails.
“Danny is a longstanding member of IST,” said Condrey. “His customers have loved him over the years, they applaud his customer service skills and he’s just a really nice guy.”
Speaking on the court system’s response to COVID-19, Robbins said, “We could not have weathered this crisis without Mr. Gutshall. He could not have a better attitude. He is universally known for having a professional and accommodating attitude working with everyone.”
Gutshall, a county employee for 24 years, emphasized that teamwork has been vital to ensuring successful installations.
“There are so many people who have worked so hard to make this project be a success,” said Gutshall. “Before I was involved in the project, several people spent considerable time researching and preparing. Several county staff employees, along with the consultants, county administration, county IT and state agencies researched and planned.”
Gutshall also credits non-Chesterfield employees for being vital to the process, including consultant Martin Gruen and contractor Lee Hartman.
“The dedication they have put into providing a top of the line audio video system in the courtrooms has been phenomenal,” said Gutshall.
Beyond assisting the court system’s response to COVID-19, Gutshall manages several other day-to-day responsibilities, providing support to the courtrooms and clerks offices of the Juvenile District, General District and Circuit courts.
Said Board of Supervisors Chair Leslie Haley, “These are the stories of what our employees do behind the scenes that a lot of times our citizens don’t get to see or know about [...] but it really is the foundation of what makes Chesterfield great.”
Everyday Excellence: Claire Lau
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 26, County Administrator Joe Casey and Deputy County Administrator Matt Harris recognized Claire Lau as this month’s Everyday Excellence honoree.
COVID-19 forced Chesterfield County to confront many new challenges, each requiring ingenuity and creativity to solve. Vital to the county’s response were redeployed workers: county employees who have temporarily joined new departments and took on new responsibilities to best meet the needs of community members. Each redeployed worker has shown great resilience, determination and adaptability, but few have worn as many different hats as Lau over the past five months.
An administrative assistant for Chesterfield County Administration, Lau has worked with the county for nearly 40 years. During that time, her work has been vital to ensuring administrative operations remain organized and efficient. Since March, however, Lau has taken on roles with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the Fire Department, the Registrar’s Office and the Treasurer’s Office.
At the board meeting, Harris said Lau set the standard for employee adaptability during challenging times.
“It truly takes a team effort to get us through this COVID period of time,” said Harris, “and I don’t know that there’s a better example of that than Claire.”
Board of Supervisors members were also effusive in their praise.
Leslie Haley, Board of Supervisors chair representing the Midlothian District, added, “We have an incredible cadre of folks that surround us and provide support to us, and I can tell you at the top of that list is Claire because she can handle any and all citizen requests and questions.”
“The diligence that I think Claire demonstrates on a daily basis is rare, and I think we all see that,” said Christopher Winslow, Clover Hill District supervisor. He continued, “I want to express my appreciation personally to you for everything you do.”
Said James Holland, Dale District supervisor, “I thank Claire so much for helping with citizen needs and concerns. She has an insight that’s just unparalleled.”
“You’ve made my transition onto the board seamless, so I thank you very much,” added Kevin Carroll, vice chair of the board representing the Matoaca District.
Set to retire in October, Lau’s willingness to take on new roles during the COVID-19 pandemic is just one example of her dedication to Chesterfield County. Throughout her career, she has personified the county’s commitment to its residents, businesses and visitors.
Department of Real Estate Assessments
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 22, County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey and Deputy County Administrator Matt Harris recognized the Department of Real Estate Assessments, whose employees’ hard work and dedication to customer service earned a highly complimentary email from a new resident.
“I recently contacted the Real Estate Assessor’s Office and interacted with Tanya Rosser and Zak Hendershott, and my experience was very pleasant,” wrote the resident, in part. He continued, “I’ve had three interactions with this department in the past year, and my experience has been the same every time. It’s apparent to me the department consistently provides superior customer service, and that deserves recognition.”
In addition to applying their customer service skills, Real Estate Assessment employees have continued serving Chesterfield residents and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing new tools and processes.
The Department of Real Estate Assessments is responsible for maintaining accurate real estate records and assessments on approximately 138,000 properties in Chesterfield County, and that work continued even as much of the department shifted to working remotely. Prior to the county’s telework shift, the department utilized paper building permit forms to catalog value changes of new homes or additions. Now, the department has begun using electronic permit forms and electronic appraisal spreadsheets to process changes in the value of real estate throughout the county.
Four employees from the Appraisal, Audit and Data Entry divisions, Tricia Davis, Evelyn Goddard, Zak Hendershott and Terry Lewis, collaborated on an electronic filing system to track the submission, review and processing of these new digital forms. The system has increased efficiency by reducing the time it normally takes for value changes to be documented, batched, entered and balanced. The new spreadsheets also automatically total values, speeding up the valuation process and reducing the possibility of calculation errors.
Thanks in large part to these new electronic tools, the vast majority of the Real Estate Assessment staff are able to work remotely. On a given weekday, the department estimates that 90% to 95% of its staff is able to telework.
But even processes that cannot be performed electronically have been altered with social distancing guidelines in mind. For example, the department continues to conduct inspections of newly built homes or additions to ensure the construction matches plans filed with the county. Before COVID-19, Real Estate Assessment staff would routinely speak with property owners, take measurements and walk around the entire structure for a visual inspection. To comply with social distancing guidelines, however, the Real Estate Assessment staff now remain in their vehicles while inspecting the exterior attributes of the building, including such items as construction materials and the number of heat pumps. To compensate for these distanced inspections, the Real Estate Assessment staff are more frequently calling builders and sending letters to property owners to confirm some inspection items.
Looking ahead, the department’s temporary electronic solutions are a necessary stopgap while a new Computer-Aided Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system is implemented. But until the CAMA system goes live in early 2021 and allows for an even more automatic appraisal process, the work of the Department of Real Estate Assessment will continue thanks to the innovativeness and adaptability of its employees.
Top left: Evelyn Goddard, senior appraisal specialist; bottom right: Zak Hendershott, appraiser
Everyday Excellence: Jim Poff
(Department of General Services)
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, June 24, County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized Jim Poff for his work as the facilities maintenance supervisor for Chesterfield’s court buildings.
An employee of the Department of General Services, Poff is responsible for ensuring the Circuit Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court buildings remain in good repair by monitoring all support systems and overseeing all maintenance work.
Much of Poff’s day is spent responding to work order requests with his assistant, Igor Khanas, as well as managing communications with court employees to ensure that all maintenance needs are met.
Poff joined Chesterfield County in July 1990 as a maintenance worker for the Buildings and Grounds Division, but he began his work with the courts as a trades assistant in 1995. In 2001, Poff was promoted to facilities maintenance supervisor for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Building, eventually doubling his responsibilities by leading maintenance efforts for the Circuit Court building as well.
“In the eighteen years since I first met Mr. Poff, I have never, and I mean never, heard him say ‘no’ to any request made of him – and I know he has had some pretty challenging requests come his way,” said Edward A. Robbins Jr., chief judge of the Chesterfield Circuit Court. “He is a professional tradesman with a can-do attitude. Unless it defies the laws of physics, he will find a way to get the job done.”
Poff’s work has taken on even greater importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he and his team work to implement public health safeguards throughout the court buildings. So far, this new work has included installing plexiglass shields as a barrier between court workers and visitors, maintaining hand sanitizer stations and marking floors to denote social distancing guidelines.
Poff’s work is as critical to the success of our court system as any judge, clerk or bailiff, and it helps unburden court-involved residents as they work through the legal system.
Thank you, Jim, for your nearly 30 years of commitment to this county as well as the dedication you show to our court employees, buildings and visitors daily.
Jim Poff outside the Chesterfield County Courthouse.
Human Resources and Internet Systems Technology: Teleworking
In late March, in the looming shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chesterfield County Government’s workforce began the largest shift to teleworking in the county’s history.
To prepare, county leadership had met daily – and sometimes multiple times per day – to formulate a response to the global pandemic. Central to these discussions was the need to keep employees out of the workplace while still providing services to residents and businesses.
At that time, Chesterfield County had approximately 530 employees who teleworked regularly, about 11.7% of the entire workforce.
The county had to rapidly increase its teleworking capabilities. Two departments, Information Systems Technology (IST) and Human Resources (HR), were vital in keeping Chesterfield’s workers in service.
IST quickly identified a key component of the telework shift: laptops. Many employees did not have a county-issued mobile computer, and some who did needed to have their laptops reconfigured for at-home use.
Laptops originally scheduled to be distributed as part of the county’s Desktop Refresh Program were instead deployed to employees on loan. This program enacted a standard set by county leaders and IST to replace 20% of the county’s computers every year, replacing them with mobile computers to prepare the workforce to be more flexible. Though the program was only a year old, it was valuable beyond expectations. In total, around 200 computers were deployed as loaners, and IST loaded needed software and configured an additional 800 computers.
IST scheduled employees for staggered appointments to pick up their needed equipment, setting up four stations in the IST parking lot that abided by social distancing guidelines. The department then deployed software installations and upgrades remotely to allow employees to connect to the county’s network from home.
Just as vital to this telework shift was Human Resources, which was responsible for keeping employees informed, compensated and ready to work. Human Resources updated the county’s Telework Program Packet, which establishes guidelines for a consistent application of telework practices across county departments to ensure the security of county information and systems.
Specifically, Human Resources amended the guidelines to account for emergency events including viral pandemics. The updates recommit Chesterfield County to minimizing the risk of exposure and transmission through the workplace and outline how employees may be required to perform their job functions in instances of mass-teleworking.
Human Resources also helped fill essential personnel openings by assisting in departments’ emergency hiring and by conducting the New Employee Orientation session virtually.
In addition, the department’s monthly newsletter, Employee Update, provides regular information to the workforce about COVID-19 and the county’s response to the situation caused by the virus.
As the operation to increase teleworking capabilities continues, approximately 1,600 employees – around 40% of the county’s non-furloughed workforce – are now able to work from home, ensuring that important community needs are being met throughout the public health crisis.
While the crisis is far from being over, Chesterfield County remains committed to serving its residents, workers, businesses and visitors with the help of technology and innovation. For more information about the county’s ongoing response to COVID-19, visit www.chesterfield.gov/coronavirus.
Chesterfield County Public Library: Story Time
Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) is driven by a central aim: to help its customers transform information into usable knowledge.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced all 10 CCPL locations to close their doors to the public, however, the county’s library system was faced with the difficult task of reinventing its services to continue supplying residents information safely.
One way that CCPL reached out to community members while maintaining social distancing guidelines was by transitioning their in-person story times to virtual experiences. Under normal circumstances, CCPL story times were held at every CCPL location, with children and parents coming together to participate in activities and listen as books were read aloud.
Every Monday through Saturday at 10:30 a.m. since March 24, however, parents and children have tuned into videos posted on CCPL’s Facebook page to hear stories, sing songs and enjoy other educational experiences. For example, CCPL programming coordinator and sheep farmer Jesse Kelley brought Francis, a 9-week-old lamb, on camera for a lamb-themed story time and question-and-answer session in April.
Parents have also been invited to submit the names of their children who are watching the story time videos so librarians and story readers can give them a virtual shout out. In addition, CCPL solicits video themes from viewers and informs them if their theme is selected.
CCPL’s virtual services like story time have been a hit with community members, but the library system has also prepared to begin serving customers in-person by following reopening guidelines established by Gov. Ralph Northam and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On June 15, three CCPL locations – the Central, Meadowdale and North Courthouse Road libraries – reopened their doors to the public, operating Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And though these locations have reopened, all CCPL locations will continue to offer curbside services as well as the virtual services found on CCPL’s website and Facebook page. To assist residents, the due date for all checked-out materials has been extended to Monday, Aug. 31. Material returns are accepted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., including at the three reopened locations. For more information about CCPL’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CCPL COVID-19 Response webpage.
To learn more about Chesterfield County’s response to COVID-19, visit www.chesterfield.gov/coronavirus.
Cheryle Rodriguez records Jesse Kelley and Francis the lamb.
Treasurer’s Office and the Department of Real Estate Assessments
When the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, Chesterfield County Government was forced to quickly formulate a plan to provide telework capabilities to a huge number of its employees to ensure residents, workers and businesses continued to receive the services they needed.
And though those efforts were – and continue to be – successful, the closure of county buildings and facilities was temporary. The county’s Reopening Taskforce and administration have since worked together to plan for Chesterfield County’s phased reopening, and on Monday, June 1, the Treasurer’s Office became one of Chesterfields’ first to reopen its doors to the public as it began to accept in-person payments of personal property and real estate taxes.
From June 1 through Friday, June 5, the due date for personal property taxes and the first half of real estate taxes, employees with the Treasurer’s Office worked tirelessly to assist nearly one thousand in-person taxpayers while observing public health guidelines. To stand out to visitors seeking professional guidance on their taxes, Treasurer’s Office staff color coordinated their clothing and their facial coverings.
In addition, the Treasurer’s Office received a boost when four employees with the Department of Real Estate Assessments, Jonathan Adie, Paul Berkley, Tanya Rosser and Youjin Ro, volunteered to help answer taxpayer questions.
The reopening also required several safety precautions to be put in place, including the installation of plexiglass dividers at cashier stations and the use of an additional drop box for drive-through tax payments. Many other precautions mirrored or were modeled after Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia Guidelines for All Business Sectors, and included such safeguards as:
- Establishing policies and practices for physical distancing between co-workers and between members of the public.
- Limiting the occupancy of physical spaces to ensure that adequate physical distancing can be maintained at all times.
- Requiring facial coverings to be worn by all personnel in the public spaces of the building. Members of the public not wearing a facial covering inside a public building as required the Governor’s Executive Order 63 will be asked by county staff to leave until they are able to secure one.
The due date for personal property taxes and real estate taxes was June 5, 2020, but on May 27 the Board of Supervisors granted a grace period through July 31, 2020 during which penalties and interest will not be assessed for late personal property taxes.
Now that it has reopened, the Treasurer’s Office has resumed its normal hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, taxpayers are still urged to pay via non-cash, remote methods if possible. Taxpayers who wish to apply for a tax payment plan may still do so either online or by calling 804-748-1201.
For more information about the Treasurer’s Office, payment methods or tax payment plans, visit: www.chesterfield.gov/Treasurer.
Clockwise, from top: Joanne Parm (left) and Tanya Rosser (right); Mary Hartsell (left) and Lorrie McKesson (right); (from left) Lisa Leland, A.J. Eavey, Debbie Durham, Brandi Hand and Samantha Branzelle
Parks and Recreation: Redeployments
Crafting a successful response to the problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic forced Chesterfield County Government to make innumerable changes, including operational innovations, planning adaptations and – perhaps most importantly – employee redeployments. As some employees were furloughed or as new needs presented themselves, employees throughout the county government began performing completely new job functions. The Department of Parks and Recreation provides a microcosm of these redeployments, with the stories of three such employees: Lynn Hall and Mark Pinney with Parks and Recreation and Mark McCoy with the Learning and Performance Center.
Lynn Hall is Parks and Recreation’s athletics specialist in charge of organizing sports classes, camps, co-sponsored groups and supervising the youth basketball program. As many in-person group and sporting events became too dangerous to hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hall began working with River City Sportsplex and the complex’s 12 artificial turf fields. Though he had little experience with turf management or the sports played at the facility, Hall learned how to change the nets of five different types of goals, how to groom and sweep fields and how to move turf.
A certified festival and event associate, Mark Pinney is the special event coordinator for Parks and Recreation. Normally, Pinney is responsible for planning, organizing and supervising county-wide special events like the Fourth of July Celebration and Trunk-or-Treat in October. Currently, however, Pinney has redeployed to the Central Virginia All-Hazards Incidents Management Team (CVAHIMT), whose stated mission is “to respond upon request, providing a trained and qualified team capable of supporting and assisting in the management of natural and manmade disasters, emergencies, planned events or acts of terrorism.” As a logistics supervisor with CVAHIMT, Pinney’s team traveled out of state to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for use throughout the Richmond area. In addition, Pinney is currently serving on the county’s Incident Management Team and has provided logistical support at all COVID-19 community testing sites in Chesterfield since May.
But Parks and Recreation has itself received a boost from redeployed employees, including Mark McCoy. As a senior training analyst with the county’s Learning and Performance Center, McCoy is tasked in normal circumstances with training other county employees on environmental and operational safety. After nearly 22 years of working desk jobs with the county, McCoy joined those he had previously trained in the field. With Parks and Recreation’s Trades Division, McCoy has assisted in landscaping facilities across the county, including Rockwood Park and Gordon and Marguerite Christian elementary schools. And though McCoy’s new role may require more sweat and manual labor than his safety training work with the Learning and Performance Center, he said he is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community in such tangible ways. Plus, he expects his new first-hand experience will strengthen his training sessions in the future.
For more information about Parks and Recreation including the department’s response to COVID-19, visit their department webpage.
Clockwise, from top left: Lynn Hall with turf and nets at River City Sportsplex; Mark McCoy assists with landscaping at Marguerite Christian Elementary School and Rockwood Park; Mark Pinney (left) and Jonathan Furrow (right) of Fleet Services organize the transport of supplies
Chesterfield’s Department of Utilities uses state-of-the-art technology to deliver high-quality public water and wastewater services to citizens and businesses. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Chesterfield County Government to alter, and in some cases limit, its operations, Utilities knew they would have to implement new procedures to continue its services. To do so, employees had to think creatively.
To promote employee health, Laboratory Supervisor Christina Baker at the Department of Utilities’ Proctors Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant used in-house materials to create a disinfectant because many commercial cleaning products were in short supply. Thanks to Baker, treatment plant staff were able to disinfect commonly-touched surfaces like tables and doorknobs.
Some of the department’s long-practiced operating procedures also had to be adjusted. Chesterfield County Utilities’ meter readers are responsible for physically visiting the properties of water and wastewater customers to get readings from meter registers, which are then used to determine the amount of water and wastewater used by customers. Senior meter readers also perform services like water turn-ons, turn-offs and checking for leaks.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, meter reading staff would pick up their equipment and truck keys from inside the Field Services section of the Utilities Building in the government complex. Now, staff keep their keys on them and use their trucks to drive up to the building’s employee entrance to pick up their equipment while social distancing. Field Services Manager Daniel Crissman and Field Services Supervisor Kelly Crites sanitize and distribute the hand-held meter readers each work day in this new drive-through format.
Beyond these innovations, the Department of Utilities also deployed a work-from-home call center, created alternating shift schedules for operations and maintenance employees and worked to waive penalties and interest on delinquent utilities bills until 30 days after the conclusion of the county’s local state of emergency declaration.
According to Utilities Director George Hayes, adapting and innovating were vital to continue providing essential services to the community.
“The safe and reliable water and wastewater services that our employees provide are essential for our community to comply with best practices to combat COVID-19,” said Hayes. “I am extremely proud of how our managers, supervisors and employees worked together to provide these essential services while implementing safe work practices for all our employees. There is no doubt that our employees’ contribution to the department in serving our citizens is helping to combat this virus and is ultimately saving lives.”
To learn more about the Department of Utilities, visit their webpage available at www.chesterfield.gov/utilities.
Daniel Crissman (left) and Kelly Crites (right) sanitize equipment; Insert: Christina Baker creates disinfectant
Fleet Services and Waste and Resource Recovery (WARR)
When Chesterfield County Government responded to the dangers presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, safeguards and solutions took many forms: some services were scaled back while others were expanded, a large shift to mass-teleworking occurred and new safety precautions were implemented. But perhaps one of the most important measures taken was the redeployment of employees to departments and divisions in need of additional support.
Ernest Spratley and Morice Fulton are school bus technicians with Fleet Services, a part of the Department of General Services. In more normal circumstances, both men are tasked with the repair and upkeep of Chesterfield County Public School buses.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Chesterfield’s schools closed as students began learning from home, and the school buses ceased to run. So, once all pending repairs were completed, Spratley and Fulton were redeployed to the Waste and Resource Recovery Division (WARR) which has several responsibilities including operating the county’s two convenience centers, administering curbside recycling throughout the county, managing three landfills and more.
With WARR, Spratley and Fulton have taken on new responsibilities, such as operating heavy machinery like the backhoe, front-end loader and tractor trailer. In addition, the men assist with daily inspections, tire repair, flagging and have taken on customer service responsibilities like cashiering and briefing citizens on operational changes.
Much of Spratley and Fulton’s work with WARR is overseen, in part, by Mindy Ritchey, an assistant operations manager. Ritchey supports the operations manager in overseeing the daily operations of the county’s convenience centers, which includes staffing, scheduling, customer relations, training, contractor management, environmental and safety compliance, maintenance and much more.
But according to Ritchey, WARR’s responsibilities go beyond simply being operational or mechanical. "Ernest, Morice and all redeployed employees have been a tremendous help to our operations, especially during this busy time when we are seeing record-breaking numbers at our sites,” said Ritchey. “But a majority of citizens just want someone to listen to them and empathize, so we have been lending an ear six feet of social distancing away, letting them know we care and we are here to help and support in any way that can.”
She continued, “Many of the interactions or stories have nothing to do with trash, but citizens just want someone to talk to about the troubles the pandemic is causing them. We do our best to let them know we hear them, we care and we will continue to support them."
By working together, WARR and Fleet Services have allowed General Services to continue operating at a high level. To learn more about WARR, Fleet Services and the Department of General Services, visit: www.chesterfield.gov/626/General-Services.
Clockwise, from top left: Morice Fulton; Ernest Spratley; Ernest Spratley and Mindy Ritchey; Morice Fulton
Fire and EMS
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, Chesterfield’s Department of Fire and EMS faced a difficult situation: continuing to provide vital service to the community while protecting both employees and citizens from the virus.
In preparation, Fire and EMS had stocked thousands of medical-grade N95 masks to use through the crisis. Unfortunately, a problem arose as many of the masks in stock began experiencing elastic band failures that prevented them from being properly affixed to a wearer’s face.
The technical failure, which had been occurring in some N95 masks across the nation, left thousands of mask unusable.
However, Christy Shires, an administrative secretary for the department’s Resource Management Division, was able to devise a solution.
An avid sewer and embroiderer, Shires determined a way to re-sew new elastic bands into the masks, making them functional once again. Shires and Kelly Jordan, a logistics supervisors with the Resource Management Division, transformed their offices into makeshift sewing centers, using their own machines to fix the masks.
Pouring hours into this task, Shires, Jordan and a team of volunteers fixed nearly 2,500 masks, helping protect the health of employees and the public on a massive scale.
The county applauds this display of creativity, dedication and innovation.
Clockwise, from left: Broken mask; Kelly Jordan, Resource Management Division logistics supervisor; Fixed mask; Christy Shires, Resource Management Division administrative secretary
Henricus Historical Park
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Henricus Historical Park to suspend its in-person camps and live educational experiences, Henricus staff pivoted to continue bringing history into the homes of Chesterfield families.
Henricus Historical Park, a living museum that recreates life in the second successful English settlement and the Powhatan Indian site of Arrohateck, has increased its social media activity on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to teach followers historical lessons, provide historical demonstrations and share engaging, family-friendly activities.
Randall Benton, a military interpreter who has worked with Henricus Historical Park for several years, is hard at work creating a historically-accurate, 16th century leather doublet from home. While Benton would normally create this piece onsite for park visitors, he is instead crafting remotely while the park shares photos of his work on Facebook.
Like Benton, Education Manager Rebecca Owen is keeping history alive by creating videos aimed at educating kids about local history while keeping them engaged. Her at-home activities have taught children about 17th century painter John White while encouraging them to create their own art, informed viewers about 17th century clothes-making while showing them how to sew and helped families create scented herb pillows similar to those said to have been used since the Middle Ages.
According to Owen, Henricus staff is motivated by sharing their passion for history with others in fun, accessible ways.
“The Education Department at Henricus Historical Park is committed to sharing the rich history of our site in ways that are meaningful and safe for our community members,” said Owen. “We are passionate about creating engaging, hands-on activities that allow young – or young at heart! – historians to have a real, tactile connection with the past, right from their own home!"
And while Henricus’s virtual programming has proven successful, the park is now preparing to safely reopen to visitors on Wednesday, June 3. Precautions implemented include encouraging the use of facial coverings and credit card payments, creation of a one-way travel pattern to manage the flow of visitors to the site and the installation of barriers to create a buffer between the historical interpreters and guests.
The park will also be operating on a new schedule: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about Henricus Historical Park and the new operating procedures, visit www.henricus.org.
Mental Health Support Services
Even in the best of times, Chesterfield’s Department of Mental Health Support Services (MHSS) has the important, yet difficult, task of providing an array of health services to our community. Under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, MHSS was faced with having to provide critical care to residents without risking the spread of the coronavirus.
MHSS knew that putting their vital services on hold was not an option. So, they adapted.
Although the MHSS building is currently closed to the public, the medical services team continued to distribute psychiatric medications and provide outdoor, drive-by injections by appointments.
In addition, MHSS nurses continue to conduct Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) drug testing and screening. By following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MHSS is cleaning and sanitizing their offices after assisting customers, and chairs in their waiting area have been spaced out to meet best practices for social distancing.
According to Kelly Fried, executive director of MHSS, innovating to meet residents’ needs has been a team effort.
“These are just a few examples of the many unique and creative ways staff are continuing to provide services offered by MHSS,” said Fried. “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented ways of delivering services, and MHSS staff have been incredible in ensuring our citizens are continuing to receive the critical services they need.”
For more information about the important work being done by MHSS, visit their department webpage.
In addition, listen to an interview between Fried and WRWK 93.9 FM about staying mentally healthy during COVID-19 pandemic.
Clockwise, from left: Nie’cole Debates, psychiatric RN, providing a long-acting injection; Monique Hayes, OBOT RN, handing a cup for a urine drug screen; Rose Rodgers, medication assistant, handing out medications from Westwood pharmacy.
Parks and Recreation: Virtual Recreation Programs
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many public buildings and facilities to close to the public. For Chesterfield’s Department of Parks and Recreation, these closures have meant thinking creatively about how to continue offering residents educational, entertaining programming.
Quickly, Parks and Recreation developed a YouTube playlist of virtual recreational programs, created the Virtual Recreation Program webpage and began uploading content to the department’s Facebook page.
Interested in staying active while social distancing? Parks and Recreation’s new webpage and YouTube playlist have several at-home workout videos, including chair aerobics, functional fitness, karate and more.
And just as the department itself has had to rethink the way it serves Chesterfield residents, some Parks and Recreation employees have taken on new roles and shown off new skills. Tory Rogers, for example, is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist who normally plans and facilitates inclusive programming for individuals with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, though Tory is using her videography skills to create and edit videos for the virtual programming webpage.
According to Dr. James Worsley, director of Parks and Recreation, the department’s virtual shift has proven to be a success.
“Although our recreation centers, nature center and satellite locations are closed, the department has adapted to the new environment,” said Worsley. “The recreation staff have done an excellent job repositioning services to a virtual format while maintaining quality programs for the community.”
While they look forward to once again welcoming back visitors when it is safe to do so, the Department of Parks and Recreation will continue developing informational content for residents to enjoy from home. To explore all that Parks and Recreation has to offer, view their department website.
Parks and Recreation virtual recreation programs cover a wide variety of topics: top right, Kecia Allen demonstrates chair aerobics; bottom right, Tory Rogers edits recreation videos.
Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home Greenhouse
The Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home (CJDH) is a secure facility for holding court-involved youth until their next court hearing, until they have received a judge’s final ruling or as a judge’s final sentence.
However, it is also a place of growth and learning.
“This facility serves some of the most vulnerable and traumatized youth in this county,” said CJDH Director Marilyn Brown. “We also recognize that the youth we serve have harmed this community by their actions. Our role is to hold them accountable by engaging them in meaningful educational and evidence-based treatment services that foster emotional awareness and regulation and a higher moral reasoning as well as counseling and support services for their families.”
During their stay at the facility, residents participate in treatment services, learn important life and businesses skills and are afforded the opportunity to care for plants at the facility’s greenhouse.
According to Brown, the greenhouse is a metaphor for the youths’ change journey.
“They plant the seeds, take care of the plants on a daily basis, have patience and watch them transform into flowering plants,” said Brown. “Even when they can’t see it, the plants are changing and growing. We want them to leave here and be positive contributors to their communities.”
Leading the greenhouse program is Renita Davis-Kelley, the CJDH’s Economics and Personal Finance teacher. Davis-Kelley has been an educator for 25 years – 18 with the CJDH – and has received the Teacher of the Year Award three times.
According to Brown, Davis-Kelley is the greenhouse program, and she has persevered in her work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even when all of the teachers went home in March with the Governor’s school closure announcement, Ms. Davis-Kelley has come every day to tend to the plants with the kids,” said Brown.
In past years, Davis-Kelley organized yearly plant sales, during which the kids talked to community members and customers about the plants, tallied up orders and helped carry customers’ purchases to their cars. Proceeds were invested right back into the CJDH’s educational programs. Due to the threat of COVID-19 this year, however, Davis-Kelley decided this spring’s plants should be donated to those in need.
So, in addition to sharing the plants with judges and clerks of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, Davis-Kelley, Brown, Post-D Program Case Manager Shaliana McFarland and CJDH Youth Counselor Detric Branch delivered plants to isolated seniors and volunteers who take part in the Telephone Reassurance Program, operated by the Department of Citizen Information and Resources’ Office of Aging and Disability Services.
The success of the greenhouse program at the CJDH is the result the hard work of many, including McFarland, Branch and youth counselors Jason Downing, Adam Guilbeaux and Vicki Robinson. With Renita Davis-Kelley leading the way, it should continue to serve as an invaluable tool for the CJDH for years to come.
CJDH Greenhouse delivers plants to seniors - clockwise from top left: Renita Davis-Kelley and Detric Branch; Shaliana McFarland and Davis-Kelley; Davis-Kelley.
Aging and Disability Services: Telephone Reassurance Program
To limit the spread of COVID-19, people across the country—including in Chesterfield County—began self-quarantining and adopting social distancing practices. While difficult for all, the increased isolation has put even more pressure on some of the county’s most vulnerable adults, including seniors and those with disabilities.
However, volunteers with Chesterfield County’s Telephone Reassurance Program are here to help. Run by the Office of Aging and Disability Services, a part of the Department of Citizen Information and Resources, the program is designed to promote the security of at-risk older adults and adults with disabilities while reducing isolation, victimization and health concerns. Volunteers are specially trained and each must pass an interview and background check.
When wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 became clear, the Office of Aging and Disability Services knew the Telephone Reassurance Program had to expand.
“When we first heard about the COVID-19 pandemic in our area, we thought about our older adults,” said Vestine Patrick, the administrative secretary overseeing the program. “We knew expanding the program, calling our older adults seven days a week instead of four, was the answer.”
Patrick continued, “This program meets the needs of our older adults and those with disabilities one conversation at a time. I am privileged to lead it."
If you know of any Chesterfield County adults who would benefit from a friendly phone call, please contact Aging and Disability Services at 804-768-7878 or by email at AgingServices@chesterfield.gov.
Vestine Patrick on a Telephone Reassurance Program phone call
Chesterfield County Farmers Market
Many businesses – especially small, local businesses – have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, shoppers have a renewed opportunity to support local vendors by shopping at the Chesterfield County Farmers Market, now adapted to meet the county’s public health needs.
The farmers market is open Wednesdays through August 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Chesterfield County’s government complex, near 6701 Mimms Loop, Chesterfield, VA 23832.
This year, the market has implemented stringent social distancing rules to protect shoppers and vendors.
Following recommendations from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as the Virginia Farmers Market Association, the market’s new rules include asking shoppers not to enter the market if they are sick, recommending facemasks be worn at all times and requesting visitors limit themselves to one shopper per household, if possible. A full list of new rules is available on the Chesterfield County Farmers Market webpage.
In addition, shoppers are now able to pre-order and pre-pay for items online.
According to Lynne Wingfield, employee wellness coordinator with both the county’s government and school divisions, public health remains the number one priority of the market’s management team.
“Using all of the available resources, we created market rules that have been shared through social media, the farmers market website and by on-site market volunteers,” said Wingfield. “The market management team will make updates to our rules and structure as social distancing guidelines are updated.”
Wingfield began the farmers market in 2012 as a partnership with Chesterfield Cooperative Extension Director Mike Likins as a mid-week resource for fresh, local produce and other products.
“Virginia farmers markets are an important resource for communities to provide access to local, fresh produce, food, horticultural goods and hygiene products,” said Wingfield. “Markets also support small local businesses with opportunities to sell their products in community settings. This opportunity allows residents to enjoy our beautiful county complex and purchase high-quality products.”
Chesterfield County Circuit Court Clerk: Virtual Probate Appointments
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many government buildings to close their doors to the public and alter the ways they serve customers, Chesterfield’s courts responded by innovating to meet the needs of the moment.
Chesterfield Circuit Court Clerk Wendy Hughes implemented a new, virtual probate process that allows citizens to go through probate while observing social distancing guidelines.
The Circuit Court’s first trial run in April was a success. Said Hughes, “While the preparation process is more cumbersome for staff, the appointment itself went extremely well. The customer was happy that we were able to accommodate his needs without requiring him to leave his home, and we were happy to assist.”
However, virtual probate may not be appropriate in all situations and customers still have an option to schedule in-person appointments which are now handled at customer windows protected by a glass partition to allow for social distancing. Hughes said customers who opt for virtual appointments must have the ability to print and scan documents at their residence and must be able to send documents to the court immediately after their appointment.
Despite the limitations of remote probate, the virtual process has been a success.
“Handling appointments virtually is not ideal, but it’s a great option to have when individuals may not pass COVID-19 screenings or otherwise may be unable to travel to the courthouse,” said Hughes.
And while the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office will consider continuing the use of virtual appointments in the future, Hughes said she is most impressed by the dedication of the entire courts team.
“While I have always known we have a strong courts team in Chesterfield, these past weeks have revealed a depth of strength never before needed,” said Hughes. “Leadership, staff members and stakeholders from all three courts have pulled together in a monumental teamwork effort. We appreciate the patience of our county residents as we continue to balance public service and safety along with the safety and well-being of our team members and their families.”
For more information on the response of Chesterfield’s courts to COVID-19, please visit the county’s Courts’ Response to COVID-19 Coronavirus webpage.
Leslie Morris, chief deputy clerk, leads a virtual probate appointment while Liz Martus, deputy clerk - Probate Division, observes
Chesterfield County Public Library: Blood Drive
The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage. In March, the organization published a national plea for donations and Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) answered the call by holding a blood drive on Tuesday, April 7 at Central Library.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, however, strict safety protocols were observed. According to the Red Cross, several measures have been implemented to keep staff and donors safe, including:
- Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy
- Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process
- Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors, and
- Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment
Employees helped prevent the spread of infection, the Red Cross states, by:
- Wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor
- Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas
- Using sterile collection sets for every donation, and
- Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub
According to Jen Shepley, CCPL community services manager, the Red Cross informed CCPL that their drive registered 53 donors and collected 56 total units of blood, surpassing the drive’s 44 unit goal. In total, the donated blood has the potential to positively impact 168 lives.
Yet, CCPL isn’t done. Another Red Cross blood donation drive will be held at Central Library on June 4, 2020. To register, visit the Red Cross website.
Jesse Dodd, Clover Hill Library’s customer service supervisor, donates blood
Cooperative Extension: Master Gardeners Virtual Help Desk
With residents throughout the county practicing social distancing and staying at home, gardening provides a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged and connect with nature. To assist gardening beginners and experts alike, the Chesterfield Master Gardener Help Desk has gone virtual.
Master gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices though sustainable landscape management education and training. This team of over 150 volunteers can view and respond to gardening and landscaping questions submitted by citizens, such as plant identification, vegetable gardening support, and compost, fertilizer and pesticide safety.
“As I have been responding to questions from residents, everyone has been so grateful to know that we’re still available to help,” said Melissa Simulcik, a volunteer coordinator with Cooperative Extension.
The Master Gardener Help Desk is available from March to October. With the success of the virtual help desk, Simulcik says Cooperative Extension hopes to maintain it as an option into the future.
“We’ve received questions from people just starting a vegetable garden, or planning to devote some time to larger lawn and landscape projects, and they are relieved to know that despite everything, they can still turn to Cooperative Extension for reliable information.”
For more information about the virtual Master Gardener Help Desk, visit: https://www.chesterfield.gov/429/Cooperative-Extension.
Registrar’s Office: Absentee Ballot Requests
On April 13, Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 56 pushed back the primary elections from June 9 to June 23, giving elections officials statewide an opportunity to better prepare to protect themselves, voters and poll workers.
In Chesterfield, the Registrar’s Office is balancing a business-as-usual approach to the upcoming election with the health precautions necessitated by COVID-19. Though the Registrar’s Office is currently closed to the public, the entire staff is working in-office while observing social distancing guidelines: maintaining a six-foot distance when possible, wearing masks and holding meetings virtually.
The biggest change Registrar Constance Hargrove has seen in the lead up to this election, though, is the number of absentee ballot requests. According to Hargrove, typically one employee could handle the processing of absentee applications for a primary election. Now, it is taking four employees to keep up with the demand.
As of April 28, 77% of absentee applications processed by the Registrar’s Office cited code 2A, disability or illness, which is encouraged by the Department of Elections for voters wishing to vote absentee because of the risk of COVID-19.
“My team is adapting every day from the way we open mail to the way we prepare supplies for the polling places,” said Hargrove. “We are spending more time helping voters navigate the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal now that more people are requesting ballots online.”
Helping residents navigate the Department of Elections’ voter registration process is central to the work of the Registrar’s Office, and staff are always willing to help answer questions. Citizens seeking more information about exercising their voting rights should visit PromoteTheVoteCfield.org or call 804-748-1471.
Absentee voting for the June 23 primary election begins on Friday, May 8, 2020. Absentee applications may be submitted online at www.elections.virginia.gov, or voters may call the Registrar’s Office to have an application mailed to them.
Due to COVID-19, the Registrar’s Office encourages Chesterfield voters to vote via mail-in absentee ballots.
“Voting is a fundamental right of all citizens,” said Hargrove. “Understanding that elected officials determine how crises are handled brings home the importance of elections. Election officials wish that every registered voter would turn out on Election Day because they know how important good governance is to the community.”
Despite the pandemic, the Registrar’s Office and poll workers will continue to assist the community in exercising their right to vote. Hargrove said, “Please, exercise your right to vote by absentee ballot or in person on June 23, 2020 and in all elections thereafter.”
Registrar’s Office employees Jessica Davis (left) and Tangela Kersey (right) process absentee ballot requests
Chesterfield County Public Library Makerspace
Recently, a Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) customer approached Bon Air Library staff with a unique request. This customer, a nurse at a Richmond-area intensive care unit, asked for help printing parts for mask shields using the library’s 3D printer.
As the nation faces a shortage of personal protective equipment, CCPL staff were happy to help out.
Bon Air Library’s 3D printer uses plastic filament that print or form solid objects. The filament is a polylactic acid, or PLA, which is made from renewable resources such as corn starch. Customers have used the 3D printers to create toys, artwork, jewelry, parts for building robots, components for prosthetic hands and more.
The mask’s transparent face piece is disposable and the entire unit is assembled with rubber bands that can be disposed at the end of every shift.
The customer has picked up several units already and will pick up more as soon as they are printed. Library staff are hopeful that these masks will help save lives in our community and protect our health care professionals working on the front lines of this pandemic.
Though all CCPL locations are currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, curbside services are still available. And, when our libraries are able to safely open their doors to the public, be sure to check out CCPL Makerspace for a chance to create something of your own with a 3D printer.
Lonnie Elliott, Bon Air Library Assistant Branch Manager, wearing a 3D-printed mask piece
Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center (DSVRC)
According to Lindsay Cassada, coordinator of the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center (DSVRC), times like these can cause extraordinary stress on interpersonal relationships, increasing incidences of intimate partner violence. However, social distancing guidelines posed an obstacle to connecting community members in need with the resources they need. Cassada and her team had to think creatively.
“As the need for social distancing became evident, the DSVRC quickly adapted its clinical provision of services from an in-person experience to a digital experience,” said Cassada. “This allowed clients to remain engaged in individual counseling and support groups with little-to-no disruption. New clients are now able to complete intake appointments by video or telephone, whichever the client prefers. The DSVRC’s clinical services will continue to be offered by video and telephone until it is safe to meet in person.”
Cassada says that, once the threat of COVID-19 fades, the DSVRC will be able to utilize these same tools to enhance assistance to those with mobility difficulties, such as individual handicaps and/or transportation difficulties.
The DSVRC encourages people living or working in Chesterfield County who are experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence to contact the Chesterfield DSVRC for free individual therapeutic counseling, support groups, protective order assistance, information and education and referrals to appropriate resources.
Senior Clinician Kim Mauck is available Monday through Friday to provide free, confidential counseling by video or telephone, whichever platform is most comfortable for clients. Additionally, virtual support groups are offered several times a week. Interested parties can contact Kim by telephone at 804-873-7887 or by email at email@example.com.
Lindsay Cassada and Kim Mauck (October 2019 Photo)
Learning and Performance Center: Cindy Taylor (Employee Highlight)
Having been with Chesterfield County for over 25 years, Cindy Taylor is an excellent performance consultant with our Learning and Performance Center (LPC). In her usual role, Taylor performs a variety of services: teaching vital soft skills to employees, helping employees earn certifications and chart their career development, facilitating strategic planning sessions and so much more.
Now, Taylor has been re-deployed to Citizen Information and Resources (CIR), where she is temporarily working with the Office of Aging and Disability Services. In part, she’s been working to connect local senior living facilities with county resources like the Telephone Reassurance Program.
Taylor has educated many county employees on the nuances of customer service. “Now,” says Taylor, “I get to practice what I preach. I’m also learning more and more about all the incredible things our employees do on the front line and what challenges they face. This will make me even better at training county employees.”
Cindy Taylor - Then (LPC) and Now (CIR)
Despite most county buildings being closed to the public and the county working with reduced operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chesterfield is still open for business! Ryan Homes dropped off plans and permit applications for 11 new homes and, of course, adhered to the social distancing guidelines. This may be the new norm for a little while, but work is getting done and projects are moving along. Great job, Building Inspection!