Every one of us can say that dealing with COVID-19 for the last several months has impacted our lives. Local artist and former Carroll ISD art teacher Gayle Bunch set out to morph those feelings into art when she created her first piece about COVID-19.
When Southlake Mayor Laura Hill saw Bunch’s painting on social media, Hill commissioned her to create one for the City of Southlake.
“I always look to art when I am trying to capture a special moment in time. The pandemic has certainly not been special in the traditional sense of the word,” Hill said. “I knew the minute I saw Gayle’s piece that it was the perfect way to capture the impact of the pandemic on our citizens and most importantly, our City staff who had just been devastated by the COVID death of fellow employee Darlene Rubio.”
Hill asked City Manager Shana Yelverton, Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski, former Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher, Fire Chief Mike Starr and Police Chief James Brandon to share their personal thoughts about the pandemic.
Bunch said the words used are important because the community was given new words throughout the pandemic.
“Artists record the times and that is what the painting is about. I named it Southlake Together 2020 as a tribute to what was going on and a community coming together,” she said.
Bunch said she is focused and devoted to the painting and what she wants to portray.
“A mentor told me once that the painting talks to you and tells you what it needs. That’s exactly how I approached this one,” she said. “It was truly an honor to be asked to create artwork that speaks to the community and City employees in Southlake.”
The painting incorporates the United States flag with words and phrases like “Flatten the curve,” “#southlakestrong,” “The New Normal,” “Darlene Rubio” and “Better Together.” The artwork is displayed in Town Hall.
Resilient & Reliable – How the Southlake Public Works Team Defines Our Values
Some DFW residents worked from home. Some still had to report to work to make sure the critical needs of everyone in the area were met. Life slowed down for some during this time, but roads, infrastructure and water are still necessities residents need daily.
“Our workers have been showing up every day,” Public Works Director Rob Cohen said. “They’re working from non-traditional sites while continuing to provide critical and vital services to our customers. Our end goal is to meet regulatory requirements, achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction as safely and efficiently as possible.”
Although employee safety is a part of the department’s normal routine, specific protocols including social distancing, vehicle and office space cleaning and sanitization and wearing gloves and masks have now been implemented for field employees.
Employees that do not work in the field are equipped with office supplies and technology to work remotely, when they return to work, the same practices will be in place.
In mid – April, the Public Works Department experienced a tragic loss, losing one of their own. Administrative Secretary Darlene Rubio passed away as a result of complications from COVID-19.
“Darlene’s loss caught our workforce by surprise,” Cohen said. “The true reality of her being gone did not officially hit the organization until we brought back our employees to our Operations Facility. This is where Darlene worked and the realization of her passing became more clear as her desk was left untouched since she left in early March.”
Employees were allowed to grieve as needed, however, due to social distancing guidelines, the ability to attend services or gather together in mourning was highly unlikely.
The City Manager’s Office set up a tribute page for employees to post their farewell thoughts in her memory. These pages will be included in a book and presented to Darlene’s family.
“Our workforce is an outward facing, customer centric organization. Our employees take pride in their work and desire to continue to provide essential services to our customers. The ability for them to return to work and do what they do best has helped the healing process.” Cohen said. “Our workforce is comprised of dedicated professionals who will continue to preserve Darlene’s memory in their own personal way. There is no doubt, however, that we are doing what Darlene would want us to do — to continue to move forward and serve — just as she has selflessly served our country and our city.”
The Southlake Public Works team resiliency and dedication through this time is a great example of how exemplifying the City’s values of integrity, innovation, accountability, excellence and teamwork.
The City of Southlake is mourning the death of Southlake Public Works employee Darlene Rubio as a result of complications from COVID-19.
Darlene was an Administrative Secretary with the department and had worked for the City for four years.
“Darlene’s death is a mighty blow to our organization,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. ”As a military veteran and an award-winning, tenured employee, she knew what it meant to be a faithful public servant.”
“Darlene was a cornerstone to our operations,” said Public Works Director Rob Cohen. “Her ability to work through the sometimes complicated nature of our business made her an essential member of our team,” he added.
Darlene started with the City in August 2015. Previous to her City work, she worked with Affiliated Bank as well as One Main Financial/CitiFinancial. Before her work in the financial sector, she spent four years in the United States Marine Corps, assisting senior-level military officers.
“We enjoyed working with Darlene and will miss her,” said City Manager Yelverton. “We are heartbroken that she is gone, and we offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends.”