Challenges Facing Local Leadership ‘Heroes’ During a Pandemic

On August 28, Scottsdale REALTORS® 2020 President Sindy Ready, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, Experience Scottsdale CEO Rachel Sacco and Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Stanton spoke virtually to SAAR Leadership Academy graduates about “Leadership Heroes During a Pandemic”. Below are some highlights.

Q: What unique challenges did COVID-19 present and how did you address them?

Stanton: The Scottsdale Chamber is built on the business of ‘handshakes’. That changed dramatically in March. We’ve had to move to online platforms that offer a value proposition of engagement. We’re averaging about 40 or 45 people per call. In some cases, we’ve seen in excess of 200 people on a Zoom call. We know there is a demand for what we’re offering.

Ready: One positive that has come out of what we’ve had to do is that we are connecting with more members than ever before, in different ways. We may not be seeing each other in person, but we’re trying to be the ‘source of the source’ as far as updates with what’s going on with COVID and what’s going on in our industry and what resources you have.

Rodbell: My big concern was keeping my workforce healthy. I made a decision that police officers would not be first responders into buildings where the call for service was “ill person”. I said, fire department goes first. If they need us, we’ll go in. But if someone is having a heart attack, having a stroke…as soon as we get there, we’re going in.

Sacco: Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries. We’ve always had a dedicated tourism tax for those who stay in a hotel, but we’ve lost almost 50 percent of our revenue. Our target markets were not traveling. So, we had to overhaul our entire campaign…if you’re six to 10 hours away, we want to get you in that ‘drive’ market.

Q: Did you make any mistakes or miss any opportunities and how did you address them?

Stanton: We have less than 10 people on staff. I was relying really heavily on our staff and began seeing that they were getting burdened. Seeing that, I began pivoting more to the volunteer leadership — our ambassador group, our board of directors. That helped a lot.

Rodbell: Early on, we learned we just weren’t prepared to protect our employees as well as we need to protect them for crises such as this. We have taken a serious look at the kinds of equipment we need to have on hand (and) how quickly we have to turn that over.

Q: What do you do to help you manage stress?

Ready: Just remember the acronym ‘BAR‘. The B is for ‘Breathe’. If you’re in a conflict situation, rather than reacting just take a really deep breath. Then you ‘Acknowledge’ what’s happening on the other end, “I hear what you’re saying, I understand your position…” and then you ‘Respond’. Breathe, Acknowledge and Respond.

Q: How important is the short-term vacation rental market?

Sacco: People who want to travel need to have choices. Whether you like those choices or not, it’s really important to be able to serve up what somebody wants. Our governor has allowed the short-term market to have a parity of taxation. If you’re staying at a short-term rental, you’re not only paying the privilege tax that you would pay if you stayed at a resort, but you’re also paying the bed tax.

Q: How can members get engaged in community discussion and planning groups?

Rodbell: We have a Use of Force review board, a Major Incident review board, an Accident review board. We have community engagement groups at each district station and one that has representatives from all the districts. Anyone interested in getting involved just needs to email me at arodbell@scottsdaleaz.gov. It may be too late to get into this round, but I encourage (anyone who is interested) to go through the Citizens Academy.