Tyler mayor Martin Heines discusses COVID-19 response, extension of term

Tyler mayor Martin Heines discusses COVID-19 response, extension of term
Tyler City Hall (Source: Julian Esparza)

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - On March 13, Smith County announced the first three positive cases of COVID-19 within the county.

"I was nervous for our community,” Tyler mayor Martin Heines said.

At that time, Heines was less than two months out from leaving his role as mayor, now faced with a deadly virus spreading within the city. Heines says at the beginning, resources from the federal and state government were scarce.

"You gotta plan for the worst and you can’t depend on anyone else to help us. We were in it by ourselves,” Heines said.

As new cases in Smith County began to climb, most of them in Tyler, Heines was meeting regularly with the joint operations task force and looking at ways to slow the spread.

"Sometimes I get very colorful with my language and I think that was very true in a lot of those meetings,” Heines said.

Weekly press briefings continued as new, positive cases climbed. Smith county’s stay-at-home order went into effect on March 27. Heines says although the economic fallout from the order is significant, he says he believes it played a crucial role in stopping the spread.

"Luckily it didn’t get to the point that it was really spreading like it did in other areas,” Heines said.

With many businesses closed for about a month, the city’s sales tax revenue, which makes up nearly half of their budget, suffered substantial losses.

"What we’ve done already is project the shortfall in sales tax due to COVID and then what we’re doing is cutting back different department budgets so we’ll end up with a balanced budget at the end of the year,” Heines said.

There’s been some discussion between medical experts about whether or not there will be a second wave of COVID-19. Heines says if that’s the case, the city is prepared.

"We never had that level of surge, so I’m very hopeful that even if it does come back in the fall that we’ll be able to handle any sort of reoccurrence,” Heines said.

The city election that was supposed to be held in May is now pushed back to the November general election.

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