OLDSMAR — The coronavirus pandemic has gripped the country for more than four months, putting an incredible amount of pressure on everyone from families to restaurant workers to first responders.
Law enforcement is one segment of the community that has carried a heavy load during the crisis, as police officers around the country have been tasked with quelling disturbances and enforcing mask and social distancing regulations while continuing to protect the public on a daily basis.
With that in mind, Oldsmar officials took the opportunity to honor Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and County Administrator Barry Burton with the City Council/City Manager Award for July, with Mayor Eric Seidel praising the pair for their work on a local task force that has tackled every aspect of the pandemic from the start.
“This pandemic, as we all know, is unprecedented. It has had no rules to it, no modern-time playbook to go by,” Seidel said July 21. “Tonight’s recognition goes to two individuals who are having a profound impact on this county.”
Seidel praised Burton, who was unable to attend the meeting, Gualtieri and Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Pinellas County Health Department, for their daily briefings with city leaders that kept local officials up to speed in the early days of the crisis
He also singled out Gualtieri for his efforts.
“I greatly appreciate the amount of patience, practical thinking and leadership that came from our sheriff, and continues to come from our sheriff, during this,” Seidel said. “We’re in really good hands. I’ve said before I believe in good times you really learn about people’s personalities but in tough times you learn about their character. And so, for that reason, we recognize the sheriff tonight.”
After accepting the clear, diamond-shaped award, Gualtieri spoke about navigating the county’s law enforcement agency through the coronavirus crisis.
“I certainly appreciate the recognition by the city of Oldsmar, and by you and by the city manager and by the council,” he said. “The opportunity to make a difference, and I believe we have, here in Pinellas County in response to the COVID-19 crisis was probably one of the greatest opportunities and greatest challenges that I’ve had because there is no playbook. There is no script. And it was four months that seemed like it lasted about four years, and of course we’re still not out of it. Although, I think we’re making good progress.”
Gualtieri concluded by stating, “At the end of the day, my job, my responsibility is to make sure we stay safe, Pinellas County is a safe place. I’ve certainly appreciated the partnership we’ve had with Oldsmar for the past 30-plus years being the police provider in the city … and I certainly appreciate the recognition and the opportunity to be with you here tonight for a few minutes and I look forward to being here a year from now, without masks, hopefully, and having this behind us. But in the meantime, we will keep at it and do all we can to keep the community safe.”
Seidel later elaborated on the reason for recognizing the two county officials.
“Our city has always felt the sheriff has provided strong leadership in law enforcement for our city and county,” he said via email. “However, the COVID-19 crisis has required a whole new level of leadership for our county and Sheriff Gualtieri has been a key person in providing strong guidance and leadership.”
Seidel continued, “Our council and city manager wanted to recognize both Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton and Sheriff Gualtieri for their dedication to our citizens during this unprecedented time. We are grateful to have both as public servants.