SIERRA VISTA— Amid COVID-19 and the havoc it wreaked across the world in 2020, Sierra Vista faced its obstacles, but there were a few positives, city officials said, including being named one of the top 17 municipalities in the west to live in during a pandemic.
The honor was bestowed on the city — it was given 13th place — by Business Insider, a financial and business news website founded in 2007. Sierra Vista was chosen because of its open spaces, outdoor activities and the ability for people to work from home, among other things, City Manager Chuck Potucek said recently in the city’s Spotlight 2020 Breakfast video.
Because of the pandemic, the annual breakfast where the city highlights its achievements and looks forward to goals and projects in the coming year was canceled. City staff nonetheless produced a creative video underscoring the projects undertaken this past year and the ones officials are looking forward to in 2021.
“We think that’s a great marketing tool for us,” Potucek said in the video, referring to the Business Insider rating. “A lot of people will not want to be in the larger cities and while that’s not necessarily a good thing for them, Sierra Vista stands to benefit from people moving here.”
Of course, like all other cities and towns in Arizona and across the country, Sierra Vista was faced with the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Potucek said earlier this week.
“I have a different perspective on COVID-19,” Potucek said. “There’s the community reaction and then the organizational (effects.)”
Potucek said the community responded well for the most part, with residents heeding the call for social distancing when in public, staying home, working remotely and masking up. While the number of positive COVID-19 cases began decreasing in the fall around the state, Thanksgiving and the weeks following it saw a jump in cases around the state and the rest of the country, as many Americans gathered over the holiday, health officials said.
As for the workings of the city, Potucek said the pandemic affected small businesses and charitable organizations hardest because of shutdowns and a lack of events. However, the city’s revenues fared better than expected because the largest employer in Sierra Vista — Fort Huachuca — kept its employees on the job. Potucek also mentioned the city’s retiree population, many of whom live on pensions and Social Security, who continued to spend money in the city.
Additionally, because a lot of business were shut down in Tucson “that forced people to stay in town” and shop locally, Potucek said.
Like other municipalities, Sierra Vista had to close its public buildings, but many employees were able to work remotely, Potucek said. That worked well for a while, but the city manager said he wants to start bringing people back to work.
“We are a public agency,” he said. “Working from home worked well for us, but I think it’s difficult. I think we’re looking at another month or so (to bring people back.)”
Sierra Vista, like other municipalities across Arizona, received COVID relief funds to help offset the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Sierra Vista received $4.9 million, most of which was used to fund police and fire personnel, Potucek said.
A $1.4 million federal grant from the defense department gave the city a boost for construction of a new ambulance sub-station on Buffalo Soldier Trail and Seventh Street.
The city held two open houses — one in the middle of the pandemic — at which the public weighed in on the design for the revamp of the West End. Sierra Vista weathered an election that was anything but routine, with an official candidate who was forced to withdraw his bid after pleading guilty to a drug-related charge and a tight race between write-in candidates to fill a third seat on the City Council.
Several construction projects are on schedule for 2021, Potucek said, and city officials are holding out hope for the coming year with the advent of the Moderna vaccine.
SIERRA VISTA — While most look forward to opening presents with family by their side, Eden Wright wasn’t feeling up to it on Christmas Day. The 2-year-old spent the holiday at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson with his mother, Sequana Wright, recovering from a bone marrow transplant.
A week after the transplant Eden became very sick, and according to Sequana it’s the sickest he’s been since his diagnosis. But with the new year on the horizon Sequana has faith the best is yet to come for her son and he’ll soon return to activities he loves like jumping on his trampoline and watching bubbles.
“It’s a blessing we can get through this,” Sequana said. “Luckily I was a (bone marrow) match. It’s hard to find a match (because of the coronavirus).”
On Aug. 22, Eden was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia — iust two months before his second birthday. Sequana first had an inkling something was wrong with her son when she noticed he was bruising easily. She decided to have his blood tested.
“I got a call at 3:30 a.m. saying I had to take him in immediately,” Sequana said. “I didn’t know it was leukemia. The EMT driving up ended up saying it was a possible leukemia case.”
Since his diagnosis, Eden has been in and out of the hospital with monthlong stays, and Eden has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Sequana said.
The 36-year-old single mom left her job in order to be with her child in the hospital and attend the appointments.
“I won’t leave my son,” Sequana said.
While she stays with her son, her family and the community are rallying behind her and Eden in an effort to keep her afloat.
“She’s just an amazing mom,” said Eden’s paternal grandmother, Tina Persson. “She’s just a strong person.”
Once a week Persson brings Sequana and Eden items they need and can’t get in the hospital since they aren’t allowed to leave due to COVID-19 precautions.
“It’s hard not being able to see him,” Persson said.
Sequana said she has received support from parents who have gone through what she and Eden are experiencing. Stacy Louch’s grandson had leukemia. She donated the first Team Eden bracelets, which were given to individuals who donated to Eden’s cause. The community has created a GoFundMe page for donations to help Sequana with expenses.
Marcelo Carrillo, owner of 143 Street Tacos, decided to join the effort and help the long-time customers he now considers friends.
“They were customers since we were in the food truck,” he said. “We donate to St. Jude and we saw this is a local kid so we wanted to help. This community built this restaurant. This restaurant is for the community.”
Since the beginning of December the restaurant has been collecting donations and giving checks to Sequana. Carrillo said all tips this month have been donated to her. He estimates nearly $2,000 has been donated to Sequana this month.
“We are rooting for him so hard,” Carrillo said. “A lot of people are giving more because they see it’s for him.”
Sequana hopes she and Eden can return home later this month after being in the hospital since Nov. 30.
After Eden leaves he’ll have to go to Tucson twice a week for checkups and follow-up appointments.
“To have my son is the best Christmas gift I can have,” Sequana said.