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The Other Unsung Heroes of COVID-19

Posted 8/20/2020 10:51:00 AM

Marsha Lidskin, Community Relations Freelance and Doug Akins, Director of Information Technology

Palm Coast - We've all been giving our first responders and essential healthcare workers well- deserved praise for helping us navigate life during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet we must not forget the City of Palm Coast's IT Department - 14 remarkably dedicated workers who've proficiently transitioned our City employees and residents from onsite to online. When City employees were mandated to stay home to stay safe, IT had just days to implement secure and reliable work-from-home solutions. 

"As always, I'm proud that our team once again stepped up to multi-task and support each other," IT Director Doug Akins said. "Setting up tools and services for our workforce to productively operate from home ensured residents hardly noticed a difference."

Technical Support Lead Kristin Carlisle and Hope Xiong, a Technical Analyst, bore the weight of the transition at a time when their team was short-staffed. As they quickly began to deploy software that would enable staff to securely connect to the City's network from home, System Administrators Mark Aiello and Rory Lochert went to work configuring and ensuring the City's network was ready for a large addition of remote workers.

Though the City's transition to a remote workforce -- literally virtually -- seemed to happen overnight, the ability for a quick transition was made possible by the groundwork that had already been laid. Recent transitions to cloud-based VOIP (Voice over IP) phone systems enabled Customer Service and City staff to monitor phones from home. And for years IT worked to make many of the City's services available online - with much of the work being done in-house by IT staff.

The GIS (Geographic Information System) Division, led by Laura Castelnovo, ensured that data continued to be accurate and readily available for field crews who continued to work out in the streets, even while City facilities were closed to the public.

Mirna Crimi, who recently transitioned from the Service Desk Lead to an Applications Analyst,  helped IT facilitate linking the public digitally with the Mayor and City Council members on Zoom so that everyone could participate remotely in their weekly Council Meetings -  as if a pandemic had never happened. Eventually, other government board meetings joined in electronically to Zoom their own meetings.

Blake Kershaw, IT's Head of Research and Development, recounts that Palm Coast's Business Tax Receipt Department is now offering license renewals online and IT is working to set up a portal for business applications to eventually be made digitally. And IT's efforts paved the way for Citizen's generosity when an online donation form quickly enabled an astounding $100,000 in 10 days to be raised for the Mayor's Feed Palm Coast initiative.

Assembling the first EOC to be housed at City Hall is one of IT's valuable contributions. When Hurricane Isaias threatened Palm Coast, a team set up the EOC in the City Council workshop area, connecting phone service, power supplies and TV screens to use for an emergency. The facility is ready to go in case we face new storms. 

"We have such a talented group of dedicated professionals serving the citizens of Palm Coast in our Technology Department," Doug added. "It is a distinct privilege to work alongside them."

So let's continue to applaud our law enforcement officers, our doctors, nurses and essential store employees. But let's add Palm Coast's IT team to the list of critical workers who've pitched in to make lives easier. Take a bow, folks!