This guest column is by Henry C. “Bud” Wessman, Fargo, a professor emeritus at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and former mayor of Grand Forks.
Today, thanks to the efficiency of Fargo Cass Public Health, Lorraine and I received our second, and final, COVID-19 vaccinations. For a couple of 83-year-olds, this was a pretty big deal.
The role of government is to serve the people whom it governs. As an individual who has spent the bulk of my adult life as a public servant, I find the COVID-19 vaccination story to be an example of government fulfilling that responsibility.
Through the years, I have had the distinct honor of serving at all levels of government. I served on the local level as the mayor and city alderman in Grand Forks. At the state level, I worked as North Dakota's executive director of human services, appointed by then-Gov. Ed Schafer, and as a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives. And at the federal level, I was a federal administrative judge appointed by then President Clinton.
I have seen the good, bad and ugly: The good when leaders set aside ego and cooperate to accomplish what is right “for the good of the people,” and the bad and the ugly when they do not.
The COVID saga, in the locations where it has been generally positive, as in North Dakota, is an example of the “good.” I understand, no matter what the venture, that not all persons may be totally happy with all aspects of the COVID playbook, but by and large, considering the alternative of a “do nothing” approach, it has saved lives.
The real story here is the importance of the role that each level of government had to play, and the efficiency with which they carried out the game plan. Creating a vaccine for an unknown virus in under one year, as the Trump administration did, together with making it available to the states, was an unheard-of accomplishment. Developing a COVID response and distribution methodology at the state level, as the Burgum administration did, was also a yeoman task and accomplishment. It would have been easy to fail at this integrational point, as many states did.
But finally, and I would argue most importantly, the efficiency and effectiveness of the final distribution, getting that “shot in the arm” was left up to the local level of government, and, again, in my humble opinion, the Mahoney administration, through its superbly efficient Fargo Cass Public Health unit, came through with flying colors as true servants of the people.