The Mercury asked a number of people in various roles across the city for their take on the strange year that was 2020. We started with Mayor Loretta Baker, who found silver linings in the troubled times.
As we left the worst of the drought behind in early January, I began thinking more about my garden and what adaptations it may need to help thrive in the continuously changing weather patterns.
I breathed a sigh of relief that we had come through the natural disasters of the summer of 2019 and looked forward to 2020 being a year of personal growth and the excitement of everything that was happening in our city.
I was looking forward to Maitland Taste as a way of bringing our community together after the cancellation of New Year's Eve celebration, when, suddenly, it all came tumbling down as we, along with the rest of the world, found ourselves in a 1 in 100 year crisis, COVID-19.
After news of the fallout from the Ruby Princess and COVID-19 on our shores and in our community and following advice from NSW Health, Taste was cancelled overnight, just 24 hours before it began.
This was the first of our events to be called off, and at the time I hadn't thought that we would eventually have to cancel all our physical events for the year.
Many Council staff had to start working from home. This was a huge undertaking for everyone, and Zoom platforms became the order of the day. We all felt a little removed from the human race.
While COVID-19 brought with it many dark clouds, cancellation of events, closures, disconnection from community groups and families, it also had a silver lining.
Council established a COVID-19 hardship fund for our community, and we removed the top tier of the marketing rate in The Levee. This has had a positive effect on shop vacancies and brought some new businesses into the area. I believe we established a much closer connection with small business in Maitland.
Council officers chased grants from every available source to see that we kept people employed. This resulted in lots of smaller projects going up across the City, along with place activation initiatives, to keep our artists and musicians in some paid work.
It was great to see hospitality outlets in Maitland flexibly reimagine their way of working, making a major pivot to take away meals and home deliveries. I know every Friday I looked forward to what new takeaway dish I'd be trying for dinner.
I was proud to see so many people in our communities get behind our local cafés and restaurants and support them in any way they could. I believe our community really pulled together this year. We all learned the value of outdoor public spaces, health and working together as a community.
Personally, like many others, I had time to reflect on what's really important in life and how we can focus on this for ourselves and our community in the future.
I found new ways to connect with people on paths and walks I hadn't previously been on and watched inspiring community groups tirelessly organise meals and support for those suffering the worst of the consequences.
As we emerge into better times, with activities and events bringing us together as a community to acknowledge what we have achieved and my garden green and vibrant from all the rain, it will mark the beginning of a new way of life for us all heading into 2021.
Loretta Baker, Mayor