Last year was an extraordinary one for the city of Alpharetta in every sense of the word. As 2020 began, local businesses were booming. Each weekday, more than 60,000 people visited Alpharetta's office parks, hotels, restaurants, and shops. Tax revenues were strong, and all fiscal year budget projections were in great shape.

When COVID-19 cases started occurring in Georgia in March, everything changed.

As the coronavirus spread around the world, companies began asking their employees to work from home, and much of Alpharetta's 22 million square feet of office space went dark. Business travelers stopped traveling, and hotels started to close for lack of demand.

People stopped eating out and going to local stores because of safety concerns, so restaurants and shops began to shutter their doors. Entertainment venues closed. Schools shut down, and thousands of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

As a result, Alpharetta's sales tax revenues took a dive, and all the work that had gone into our city's previously healthy financial projections went out the window.

Since the world had not dealt with a global pandemic like COVID-19 in more than 100 years, there was not a clear model for how cities should respond or what the impact would be. Fortunately, citizens, business owners, and organization leaders in our community responded to the unprecedented challenges.

Business owners made the safety of their customers and employees their top priority and facilitated responsible changes to daily operations. Grocery store managers changed operating hours and instituted policies to enforce social distancing and limit hoarding of scarce resources like meat, cleaning products, and paper goods. Restaurant managers closed their indoor dining rooms and began focusing on drive-thru and take out options. Church leaders began broadcasting online services for their members.

The citizens of Alpharetta made drastic changes to protect themselves and their families, too. Parents started working from home, and their children adapted to distance learning. People started washing their hands more frequently, and they became more thoughtful about social distancing to avoid spreading the disease among their families and others who may be especially vulnerable.

I believe the adversity we have faced in 2020 has reminded us that we are blessed to be surrounded by heroes who often go unnoticed. The grocery store employees who risked their health and lives to make sure we could continue to feed our families. The health care workers who were on the front lines of fighting COVID-19. The first responders who left their families every day to continue protecting the health and safety of the 67,000 people who call Alpharetta home.

Yes, 2020 was an extraordinary year, and the people of Alpharetta responded in an extraordinary manner.

We should be proud and thankful for how our community responded to last year's unprecedented challenges, and we should also hope that 2021 will be a little less extraordinary.