Dan Mathieson, BA '93
Mayor of Stratford
How has your job been impacted by COVID-19?
We declared a state of emergency and I have transitioned into a strategic operations/governance role. Meetings are cancelled, but Council is meeting online. There are many conference and video calls, and city hall is down to a skeleton staff. We are working as an Emergency Management Group to ensure continuation of essential services, care for our most vulnerable, sufficient PPE for staff and community partners, mental health initiatives and financial supports for residents and businesses. We are in close coordination with our local Public Health agency, hospital and community organizations to ensure a unified response that protects our front-line workers and citizens from the spread of COVID-19.
How has your industry been affected?
The City has seen a significant drop in revenue and an increase in costs due to additional expenditures with our pandemic response. We laid off temporary and part-time employees and will not be hiring any co-op or students this year. We have cancelled programs and closed facilities, and moved senior and youth programs online. Our public library has seen a steep rise in access for online services by all age categories. The City’s local economy is reeling with the shut-down of non-essential businesses. Our manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, theatre, retail and service sectors have all experienced a great number of layoffs. The Stratford Festival will not open in May and this will have great economic and social repercussions in our community.
How are you staying busy and connected with family and friends?
For business, I'm using teleconference and Zoom to connect with colleagues, attend meetings and provide community updates. Personally, we are using video calls to enjoy dinner with others, and we get together digitally with friends for drinks or a movie. As a family, we have a more structured meal schedule and have enjoyed many walks while physically distancing.
What is the most inspiring thing you have witnessed in your community?
I’m amazed by the generosity of so many people who have offered their time and talent, or money, to those in need. People are stepping up and donating meals, delivering essentials to shut-ins, and supporting families that can’t afford heat, hydro, groceries and mortgage payments. We also had a group of business people start a mental health fund to provide counselling and support services. Everyone is striving to do what they can for others, and it is truly heartwarming.