Executive Director’s Notebook: First Spouses step up with initiatives in face of COVID-19

By Jim Ogsbury

There is no shortage of unsung heroes working day and night to face down the COVID-19 threat gripping our nation: first responders, medical personnel, food producers and distributors, critical infrastructure workers, and many others.  Add to this long list the First Spouses of Governors.

In the best of times, these individuals carry a heavy load as unpaid advisors, therapists and cheerleaders.  They share the emotional burdens of Governors and bear the stress of difficult decision-making and political antagonism. 

Those stresses are compounded during this period of crisis, and, as ever, the First Spouses are responding with grace, dignity and resolve.  Moreover, they are pursuing a number of initiatives to support their Governors and constituents in response to the continuing public health threat. 

Consider Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon, who has organized the First Spouses of western governors to share ideas, information and perspectives.  In the Cowboy State, she has assembled a task force to work with every county to address food shortages affecting the state’s most vulnerable populations.  Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak has identified supplies of personal protective equipment in China and raised funds for their purchase and delivery to the Silver State.

Oregon First Gentleman Dan Little has used his social media channels to promote local commerce during this time of economic distress.  North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum is applying her knowledge of addiction recovery to address behavioral health issues associated with COVID-19, including job loss and isolation.  Idaho First Lady Teresa Little is leveraging her profile in the Gem State to broadly communicate messages of hope, solidarity and support. 

WGA is proud to support this incredible network of western First Spouses.  In ways both large and small, visible and unseen, their dedicated leadership is helping our incomparable region to weather the current storm. 

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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