A quarter century ago, Jonathan Walters, a great observer of state and local government, said, “…counties have become the backstop of American government. In fact, a huge amount of responsibility for some of society’s toughest, costliest, most thankless jobs has either been handed or simply devolved to county governments, and the results can be overwhelming.”
Those words are especially salient as we face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Counties are on the front lines of the pandemic response. They run the epidemiology efforts to track and predict the spread of the virus. They operate public hospitals that serve our neediest. They’re rolling out the COVID vaccine in real time. Meanwhile, they just administered the most scrutinized election in a generation, all while tending to public safety, rural roads, vital records, and other essential local services. The backstop of American government is now at the forefront of the American consciousness.
- Publication date: February 2021
- Author: Justin Marlowe