The San Diego County Clerk's Office was recognized by the National Association of Counties for transforming a vacant snack shop into a "marriage hut" in order to continue issuing marriage licenses and perform ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced Tuesday.
More than 1,600 couples had appointments to be married when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a "stay at home" executive order on March 19, 2020, effectively closing all county buildings across the state.
Within 24 hours of the shutdown order, the county clerk staff transformed a vacant snack shop outside San Diego County's waterfront office into a COVID-19 safe marriage service facility.
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"The pandemic shut down everything, but in San Diego, we didn't let it shut down love," said San Diego County Clerk Ernie Dronenburg. "My staff rose to the challenge and within 24 hours of being issued a statewide shutdown order, found an innovative way to keep love alive by converting an empty snack shop into a marriage hut to safely provide marriage services."
The 2021 NACo Achievement Award recognizes the innovation of the clerk's office to continue operations and honor their commitment to the couples that already had appointments. In addition, it recognizes their leadership inspiring the other county offices across California to find a pathway to reopen and continue serving the public.
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The San Diego County Clerk's office in a normal year issues around 25,000 marriage licenses. In 2020, under COVID-19 restrictions, the office issued 17,286 marriage licenses. The marriage hut continues in operation and is now a requested venue for couples to tie the knot in San Diego County.
"Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership," said NACo President Gary Moore. "This year's Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America."