Kathleen Magnusson Hillis and Lorene Magnusson Davis were both born at home in Ardmore. Kathleen was born in 1922 and Lorene in 1924. Now, all these years later, they are roommates at Limestone Health Facility’s Senior Rehabilitation and Recovery Center. They are the daughters of O.W. and Ellis Magnusson. O.W. was a farmer, and according to Kathleen, “He raised everything—corn, cotton peas, sorghum, and peanuts.” Later on he raised cattle, too. Both girls worked the farm hard, as was the case with every kid during the Great Depression, and Lorene’s husband was a farmer, too.

Lorene is the baby of the family, and she married at the age of 15. Kathleen married at the ripe old age of 17. Kathleen made an interesting comment about her father when she said, “He wanted us to go to college and get jobs.” I asked, “But you both fell in love, right?” She smiled. Both Kathleen and Lorene were happily married, and each of them had one child. Kathleen had a son, and Lorene had a daughter.

Kathleen went on to become a doctor’s assistant at Jackson Hospital in Lester, and Lorene worked the farm with her husband. Kathleen’s husband served in Europe during WWII, and Lorene’s husband was exempt due to the fact that “he got butchered when he got his appendix out, and he had flat feet.”

The sisters were raised Methodist, but Kathleen spent her life fellowshipping at the Church of Christ because that was her husband’s church. They both love reading the Bible, and Kathleen especially loves to read the book of Revelation. Kathleen enjoys reading the newspaper from front to back, and because Lorene was out in the fields a lot, she didn’t read much for pleasure. However, Lorene did read trade magazines that had to do with cattle.

This is the first time that I have gotten to do the “faves” section with more than one person in the same interview, and it was so much fun to hear sisters act like sisters with each other as they discussed their possible answers. Kathleen’s favorite color is purple, which she wore for the interview, and Lorene’s is red, which she wore as well. The one thing they share in common is that they both like to make and eat fried chicken. They are also big Dolly Parton fans. However, they made me laugh when they talked about how, long after they were married and living on opposite corners of the same property, they would call each other on the phone when it was time for Dancing With The Stars, which was broadcast on WAAY 31. Kathleen told me, “I would be willing to miss a meal before I’d miss Dancing With The Stars.”

Their favorite United States President is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lorene says that she appreciates how FDR took care of the soldiers. As far as the biggest changes that have occurred in their lifetime, Kathleen says that she thinks it’s the invention of the TV, and Lorene says it was when all the soldiers came home from World War II.

I think the most interesting and entertaining thing about these two is that they yodel! They gave me a demonstration, and it made my day.

They love the care they are getting at the Limestone Health Facility and enjoy being there. Kathleen says, “I love the way they take care of us now that we can no longer take care of ourselves.” She and Lorene say that the food is good, and Kathleen’s favorite activity is bingo. “We love music, too,” she said, and Lorene said with enthusiasm, “Music is our middle name!”

I asked them what words of wisdom they would give to young people, and Kathleen said, “Be good, study hard, and stay out of trouble.” Lorene said, “Live a good life, stay out of trouble, and do the best you can.”
As we moved things about so we could take their picture, Kathleen looked at me and grinned, saying “We’ve had a good life.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

I first had the chance to tell the folks in our area about Top Job Roofing and Construction back in the fall of 2014. At that time, they had been in business for about a year, and have now grown to where this year they are going to be Gold Sponsors at the Limestone County Chamber of Commerce Home and Garden Show. The show will be held on Friday, March 10th, and Saturday, March 11th at the Limestone County Event Center, and they will be there to answer all your roofing questions. Zeb Lewter and Tim Lewter are the owners, and together bring decades of construction, roofing, and classroom experience to both get the job done right and educate as well as serve their clients throughout the entire experience.

Why should you choose Top Job Roofing for your project? There are a number of reasons, one being that it is the only roofing company in the area to have the GAF Master Elite Contractor certification. Top Job has also achieved the status of Certified GAF Weather Stopper Roofing Contractor, an achievement for which only 6% of professional roofing contractors meet the qualifications necessary to be designated as such.

In addition, they are members of the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. They are also what is known as Green Roofers, a certification that demonstrates that their methods are eco-friendly.

I have learned some things about roofing in talking to the Top Job guys; one thing being that architectural roofing materials have to be nailed in six specific locations per shingle, or they can slide off the roof. All felt from the roof must be removed in order for the job to be done right, and not everyone does that. Top Job uses synthetic felt, which provides a much better moisture barrier. In 75% of their installs this year they used the architectural grade materials, and they are paying more per roof in their contracts than anyone else. They use lead boots instead of rubber gasket boots, and the result is simply a much better product, with a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Top Job also puts a professional starter strip at the edge of the roof, rather than do what many companies do, and that is flip around a shingle tab to make a strip. The problem with that is there is no seal on the makeshift strip, and it can peel up far more easily. The professional starter strip greatly increases a shingle’s ability to withstand high winds.

Storm season will soon be upon us, and for the last several years as we have had to contend with Nature’s wrath, bargain rate roofing companies have sprung up out of nowhere, offering “unbelievable prices.” One of the reasons they can do that is because their roofers are not covered by Workman’s Comp, and the State of Alabama only requires that roofing companies guarantee their work for one year. “All our roofers are covered by Workmen’s Comp,” I was told. What you as a consumer may not know is that if a worker gets hurt on your property, and does not have insurance coverage, you as the homeowner are liable.

Top Job provides 10-50 year warranties and itemized statements as part of the contract process prior to beginning the job. The contractors are certified, and the shingles used for each job are made locally in Tuscaloosa.

Top Job offers monthly specials, as well as special discounts for members of our Armed Forces, Educators, and Emergency Response Personnel, (active, retired and their surviving spouses). They also offer incentives for referrals.

Top Job will also go above and beyond to help their clients finance their roofing jobs, and are proud of their ability to do so. They know that replacing or repairing your roof may be an unexpected expense. They offer interest free financing from 12 to 24 months – same as cash with a 90% approval rate. They also have longer term loans available at low interest rates. If it is a repair and you need help filing an insurance claim, they are there to help.

If you are looking for a local roofing and contracting company with membership in the best national trade related certifying organizations, Top Job Roofing and Construction is going to be your best choice, because Zeb and Tim will make your job their “top priority.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

“Attitude IS Everything,” we are told. This is such an important business mantra that is used often in the workplace, but ultimately could and should be the approach to how we live our lives every day. What these three words mean holds a different connotation for you than it does me. When you think about these words, I want you to visualize what comes to mind. Whether these images that float in your mind are positive or negative can dictate how you view the world around you.

For myself, I am not the kind of guy where the “glass is half-full” nor is the “glass half-empty.” For me I like to think that my cup overflows with the emotional effects that my attitude has on the world around me on an everyday basis. Let’s face it, the world is full of negativity in which the running joke is the evening news beginning by telling you “Good Evening,” and then proceeding for the next 30 minutes telling you why it’s not.

How we respond to events that happen to us, even if we think they are beyond our control, is actually well within our grasp. If you want to know how your day is going to turn out, then ask yourself one simple question. How is my attitude going to be today?

In the world of business, I see all kinds of attitudes. I see good ones, I see bad ones, and I see ones that I will never soon forget. To make the biggest impact upon yourself, your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, but most importantly your customers, you must maintain a positive attitude even when the world around you suggests otherwise.

I have found the overall satisfaction of my customers increasing when my attitude exhibits an overwhelmingly positive approach. The saying that “misery loves company” holds no weight in my life, nor should it in yours. If you tend to be the negative person in the room, might I suggest you make some subtle changes. I recommend that you commit yourself to only thinking positively, and withstand any negative thinking that might cross your mind.

I understand that in life it is so much easier to be negative. Negativity requires so much less effort than what it takes to be positive. To my knowledge, there is no medication out there that is designed to make you hate life. There’s plenty out there for you to enjoy life, but none exist to bring you down from your emotional high.

I oftentimes get complimented on my attitude, and from a business perspective I relish in this. When customers notice my positive attitude, I realize they are not receiving this same energy level down the street. Your positive attitude can set you apart from your competition. When your customers feel uplifted by your daily approach, they will want to do business with you. Before you can get to this point though, you are going to have to work on your mindset.

We have all overcome obstacles that have stood in our way. Personally, my father died when I was 15 years old and my mom abandoned me less than 2 years later. I could have been negative. I should have dropped out of high school, gotten mixed up in drugs or become a statistic you read about in the paper. I should have never graduated high school, let alone college. I did, though. All because of my attitude.

Do not get me wrong; there were many lonely nights I found myself crying out to God just asking, “Why me?” For several years I took the victim mentality that I “had it so rough,” but then I realized there are people out there who have it worse than I do. This helped change my way of thinking. Being able to reflect upon the obstacles others faced helped me to realize what I was going through was easy compared to what others were facing.

As you are reading this, I want you to realize that the way you conduct business and your life needs to change today. You can make a difference to your customers, and I urge you to let your positiveness shine through to them. No matter what your definition of attitude has been, I want you to start today by realizing that Attitude IS Everything. Go be the difference you want in the world.

Athens Now is pleased to welcome D.A. Slinkard, manager of the Athens Staples store, to our crew of contributing writers.
By: D. A. Slinkard

Tina Cook is well known in our community as the hard working Director of the Family Resource Center located on Jefferson Street, and I first met her at the monthly Chamber of Commerce coffees that are held at various businesses in our area. I immediately liked her, and one of the things that impressed me is that she is both uncommonly transparent and intensely joyful. I became aware that she has a personal “death, burial and resurrection story,” and seeing as we are coming upon the season of Resurrection and Passover, now seemed the appropriate time to tell it.

We met for the interview in the FRC board room, which is lined with inspirational sayings as well as scriptures. One that stuck out was written by Mark Twain, and it says:

“Challenges make life interesting, however, overcoming them makes life meaningful.”

Tina has had no shortage of challenges, some of which were beyond her control, and many with which she saddled herself. Her folks divorced when she was small in a time when “nobody’s parents got divorced.” She said that she knew her dad loved her, even though living apart made it harder for her to realize it, yet like so many girls, Tina became “daddy hungry,” and started looking for love in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways. By the time she was 15, she had an abortion, and began to get into serious trouble with first substances, and then crime. The abortion also made it so she would never have children. By the time she graduated from West Limestone High School, she was running stretched out down the wrong road.

She would disappear for months and sometimes years at a time, and her family had no idea if she was dead in a ditch somewhere or just not communicating. She was no stranger to wanting to commit suicide. Once she sat in the Limestone County jail for 11 months because she wouldn’t roll over on her fellow partners in crime. The last time she was arrested, which occurred in Florida, her mug shot portrayed someone who was frightened, defiant, and her eye was still swollen from where she had been beaten by a man.

“I was in jail on and off for a total of seven years, and I lived a sordid lifestyle,” she said. It was in jail that she got her wake-up call in the form of learning that her dad had died, and she couldn’t go to his funeral. That’s when she began to give up and give in to the love of God and discover His purpose for her life. Her “Life Scripture” became “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” and it shows.

Tina was able to reconcile with her mother, and after she got out of jail Tina went to care for her mom as cancer did its worst. However, that time is one of the treasures of her new life, and Tina was with her mom when she passed. They got everything between them straightened out, and the years were restored. In addition, one of the blessings that came out of that rough time is that Tina was given her mom’s dog, Chloe to care for, and Chloe is one loyal little pooch.

Tina has extensive knowledge of what it takes to overcome addictions, both from her personal life as well as her studies. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from City Vision University in Christian Addiction Studies and Urban Missions, and all of it was a perfect training ground for her new life. It takes guts to come back and rebuild in the same spot where it all went bad, but that’s what she felt she was being called to do, and rebuild she most definitely has. One of her favorite scriptures is Philemon 1:10-11, talking about Onesimus. “Formerly he was useless, but now he has become useful to you and to me.”

This woman inspires me, and I hope you are blessed by her story. If you are struggling, please know there is hope. Tina lives it, and you can, too.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Since its opening in 2015, Joe’s World Famous Pizzeria, located on Hwy 72 across from Chick-fil-a in Athens, has become a fixture in our community. The pizzeria has become “famous” for everything from whole pies that sport the cheese topping faces of soon-to-be-President Donald Trump as well as NFL great Tim Tebow, to Valentina, its 4,000 pound custom built brick oven named after the daughter of the owner, Joe Carlucci.

This past summer, Joe was able to purchase a second oven, also named Valentina, which is mobile, runs on oak, and is perfect for street fairs and catered events. The interior of the shop was redone with a retro diner vibe, complete with red booths and a juke box, and the walls display Joe’s bevy of awards, articles, media events, and certificates, all of which are plentiful.

However, as legendary as Joe Carlucci is in the pizza world, he wanted the focus of this article to be one of gratitude for everyone and everything from God, to Athens, to his faithful crew, specifically Dayana Rodriguez and Tessa Colwell. “It takes a team to be successful,” Joe said, “and I am blessed by God to have young adults who have dedication, who work hard, and care about Joe’s. I have people that I trust, and the ones who have been here for a long time, and have stuck by me, they have made all the difference.”

I got a chance to hear the stories of these young women, and while one wouldn’t expect running a pizzeria to be particularly inspirational at first blush, I left the shop feeling full in my heart, and so happy for all the blessings that have come Joe’s way.

Dayana Rodriguez
Dayana, (pronounced Diana) has worked at Joe’s for about a year and a half, and has come to the place where Joe says, “Anything in the place, she can do it all.” Joe is well known for burning the candle from both ends, and on Christmas Day, Dayana ran everything. They worked together as great team until midnight, busy to the last. Dayana told me how she had applied many places and landed here. She had no prior experience, but was teachable, and is so grateful for all that she has learned. She is taking business classes at Calhoun, is heading toward getting a business degree, and feels that everything she has learned from working for Joe’s will one day be used when she is an entrepreneur herself, perhaps as a clothing store owner. She loves the training she has received, and she loves to make people happy. I asked her why, when I have “pizza choices” in the area that range from big box to those that are locally owned, should I choose Joe’s when I am in the mood for pizza? She said, “He makes each pizza to please the people, and thinks about the customer.” She smiled and said, “The pizzas are thoughtful,” meaning, thoughtfully made. Dayana likes the fact that Joe is now able to spend more time on recipes, and she can focus on doing everything else.

Tessa Colwell
Unlike Dayana, Tessa Colwell “knew” pizza, as she had worked for a national chain. She was born and raised in Ardmore, and her family moved to Georgia. That’s where she learned a trade that she basically had to un-learn and start from scratch when she started working for Joe. For one thing, the use of a brick oven is not something you see very often, and getting good at baking pizza in it takes some real skill. “The whole thing is different,” says Tessa. I asked her if she had learned how to toss pizza dough in the air, and she laughed as she told me about the first time she tried and it literally hit the ceiling. “I have developed my own style,” she said. Tessa is also very artistic, and is getting close to making her first “picture pizza.” I asked her who she is going to use for her subject, and she said, “Scooby-doo. And, Leonardo the Ninja Turtle because he loves pizza.”

I asked Tessa why I should come there for pizza, and she said, “It has a family feeling. The sauce is the best I have ever had. The cheese is fresh, and we’re faster than anybody. We can get a pizza baked in 2-3 minutes.” She went on to tell me more about how they remember the names of their customers, and want people to feel comfortable. She also mentioned that she is hoping they’ll be able to do more catering and weddings. I asked her, “What would you like to say to the people who read Athens Now?” She said, “We hope you have a blessed year.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Alabama native Sandy Collins has been both a successful financial planner as well as a realtor, with a significant part of her career having been in the Northeast. When she knew it was time to leave those arenas, she wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Her next step was to draw from her enjoyment of collecting beautiful pieces from a more gracious time, and has converted that former hobby into a thriving business known as Serendipity Antiques and Interiors. Her large and charming store is located here in Athens.

Sandy started out collecting glassware, and then, “When we lived in Kansas, I discovered auctions. I started buying antiques, collected, and I opened my first booth at Regency Antiques in 2000,” she said. Eventually she purchased Regency in 2004, and in June 2011, she sold it, thinking she was going to finally retire. The new owner, Champagne Lane, was open from 2011 until late December 2014. Sandy always knew that if she were going to go back into business full time, she needed a location that was on Highway 72. This shop was located in the Valley Event Center complex near Publix in Athens, and it was perfect. She officially opened as Serendipity on December 29th 2014, and Sandy tells me, “People were just about beating down the doors before we opened back up.” It’s now two years later, and Serendipity is getting ready to throw an anniversary celebration on January 14th. “We want to celebrate and thank our loyal customers,” she said.

“We now have over 30 dealers,” Sandy said, “and it’s hard to believe we are completely full with a waiting list for booth space. It’s really exciting to see the return of some of our former vendors.” She smiled and added that, “It makes me feel like we’re doing something right.”

I asked her what she thought were some of the reasons for Serendipity’s success. “We have been told by our customers that Serendipity is one of the most attractive stores they have visited. They say it’s such a pleasure to shop here because it’s clean, neat, and well organized, thus making it easier for shoppers to find what they want,” Sandy said. Serendipity also keeps a “wish list” for their customers. If they come in and can’t find what they are looking for, Sandy and her friendly crew will keep an eye out for it. They will even contact other vendors to help customers find that special item. “We share our list with all of our dealers in case they have the piece in their personal storage,” she said. This makes it possible for everyone to benefit, and there is new merchandise coming in every day, since dealers can refill their booths as soon as items sell and space becomes available. Every inch of the 7500 square feet of the store is beautifully displayed.

“We have helpful, knowledgeable employees, and they make the shopping experience a pleasant one,” Sandy added. “Customer service is number one on our priority list, and folks say they are always greeted with a friendly ‘hello,’ followed by, ‘Let us know if we can help you find anything.’” There are also several family teams that have booths, and they have specialties such as antique hand tools, primitives and Depression glass.

Sandy is also careful to not try and “sell,” which is something I think we all appreciate. “When people come in, we listen, we care, and we do our best to find what it is that they really want,” she told me. Sandy makes a point of going to estate sales and cherry picks only the best items. She is not alone in her “quest for the best.” Frank Crafts, of “Frank’s Good Stuff” has become her largest vendor. “Frank travels frequently, and comes home with fantastic antiques,” she said.

I have firsthand experience with Sandy’s passion to take excellent care of her customers. About 18 months ago, I purchased a school desk from Serendipity to be used as an end table. It has a place in it for an inkwell, and while I did not fill out my “wish list,” Sandy remembered that I hoped to find one. While we were doing this interview, she said, “I haven’t forgotten your inkwell, you know.”

To celebrate their two year anniversary, Serendipity is going to have an open house on January 14th. There will be refreshments as well as special sales. Sandy and her 30+ vendors are hoping you’ll come out and experience all that has made it possible for Serendipity to become a “destination store.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

A Tribute To Tammy

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One afternoon I had the chance to play the piano in the dining room of what was then called Athens Rehab and Senior Care, located across from the Athens-Limestone Hospital. Every other month, for over five years, I have had the great privilege of interviewing senior citizens who were residents of the facility. On this particular day, I had some time to kill, which is rare, and I chose to use the time to play some worship music and enjoy my Maker.

It wasn’t long before a slight woman with mocha skin, large and tender chocolate-colored eyes, and one of the gentlest voices I have ever heard came and stood behind me to listen. Eventually I looked up, and the rest, as they say, was history. We had one of those connections that was instant and deep, and whenever we would bump into each other while we were out and about, it was like meeting a long-lost friend or family member.

She was a Katrina refugee and had come to Athens to start over. She owned her own catering business called Arabella’s, and she could have just about been the Cake Boss. She was patient and painstaking, and her cakes were a work of art.

She taught classes on cake decorating at the Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning, and as Jackie Warner mentioned in her article, Tammy was the Resident New Orleans Chef at the Bridge, the wonderful place on Hine Street that is owned by the Warners, and dedicated to building our community.

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One time Tammy and I catered a dinner for a Juice Plus event, and we had some challenges, that if overcome, would serve to make the meal memorable. One was that we had a woman attending who had Celiac disease so badly that if she came in contact with any gluten whatsoever, she would have to be hospitalized. The other was the goal to make a tasty catered meal with linens and such for $10 a head. Because of Tammy’s generosity and the fact that we could work so well together, we were able to do it, and the sponsors of the event were greatly pleased.

Tammy had a dream, and that was to teach cake and cupcake decorating in the projects with the hope of teaching a trade that could result in owning a business. Frosting would change the future.
When her fellow Katrina refugee and Athens Now cooking columnist Shelley Underhill found herself in need of help with her column while she cared for elderly relatives, Tammy stepped up. She was not at all comfortable with technology, and used the Internet as little as possible; so we used to meet in the beautiful, sunny breakroom at the new library, and she would hand me her recipe written in long hand, with detailed instructions designed to make it just right. My job was to get it converted into a word document and get it to Production, and make sure the pictures she had taken would work.

Tammy’s passing on November 8th shocked and saddened us all, and this paper won’t be the same without her. She has been returned to her beloved Louisiana, and I know that because she was a woman of faith, her “soul is rested,” as Mother Pollard used to say. We will see you soon, sweet girl, and just know that you are sorely missed.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Bill Daws was born and raised in Limestone County and graduated from West Limestone High School in 1977. For 19 years he worked in Decatur at Wolverine Tubes. In 1999 he was a part of the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department and served as a patrol deputy. Bill had always wanted to own his own business; so, for two years he ran an excavating service gaining experience that would serve him well as a County Commissioner.

In 1996 he ran for County Commission and lost to Dave Seibert. When Dave became the Chairman of the Limestone County Commission in 2002, Bill was appointed to replace him in the District 4 slot. Bill successfully ran in 2004 and 2008, but was defeated in 2012. He returned to the Sheriff’s Department to serve as a patrolman, but then chose to transfer to the work release program as it was getting off the ground.

“I enjoyed helping these guys put their lives back together by working hard and making restitution,” Bill said. He told me how the program worked. “They had to be sentenced, and be willing to work in order to make restitution. It is so much better than just having them sit in prison and not doing anything. Even though it’s years later, I still hear from some of the guys who are really thankful for the program. They’ve turned their lives around and are drug-free. Some of them paid off child support or other debts, and it was a win-win for the taxpayers,” he added. However, it was when several people approached him to run again for his former position that he decided the only way to do so would be as an independent. “I told them, you are going to have to get my name on the ballot, and I will never run as part of a political party.” We chatted for awhile about the need for Commission and judicial positions to be non-partisan, and Bill hopes if he wins that running as an independent will pave the way for that to happen.

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Bill also told me that he greatly enjoyed his job as Commissioner. “I loved doing the job, helping people, and working with the other Commissioners and City Council. Bringing jobs and helping industry grow keeps the money local, and helps the taxpayers,” he says.

One of the strengths Bill brings is the experience of being a farm owner. He raises cross-breed cattle, Angus and Hereford, as well as hay. “The Commission should be run like a business, and the tax payer should get the very best use of their tax dollars,” he said. He also said with firmness, “It is time to get rid of party politics. Run on your name and what you can do, not being tied to any group, organization, or committee.”

I asked Bill, “When you were Commissioner, what was your best accomplishment?” He answered, “Maintaining the roads safely.” He also talked about keeping the bushes cut back, getting funding to put guard rails for the Elk River, paving projects, and the fact that he returned phone calls in a timely manner. “I want to hear their concerns and see what we can do about it,” he said. Bill is proud of the fact that he was able to secure funding to renovate the Owens Senior Center.

“As an elected official, you are the voice of the people. You represent those folks,” Bill said. He went on to say, “There can be no room for personal agenda. You have to keep an open mind, and do what’s best for the people of the County.”

Bill says that “[t]he roads in District 4 are in bad shape, and safety is a major concern. If I am re-elected, my main project is to get the roads back up and to work with other officials to get funding we need. Limestone County is growing, and we need to make sure the roads and intersections are safe. I have had years of experience working with legislators to get grants, whether they are Federal, from Department of Transportation, or ATRIP (Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program).”

Bill also wants to make sure that major projects undertaken by the Commission are not what are known as “Cost plus 10,” because it’s too easy for there to be major cost overruns. Most of all he wants to be a “working Commissioner for all the citizens of District 4.” If this is what you are looking for in a County Commissioner, then Bill Daws would appreciate your vote on November 8th.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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It was in April of 2015 that I had the joy of first interviewing Kelli Minyard and her brother, Jordan Anderson, co-owners of Sweet Thymes Bakery and Meals to Go. Sweet Thymes is located at 407 North Clinton Street, just south of Persell Lumber. They opened for business in October 2014, and just celebrated their second anniversary by having a booth at the 50th Fiddlers’ Convention.
Kelli and Jordan, with the help of friends and family, converted what had once been a crack house near the railroad tracks in Athens into a most pleasant eatery. Since that time their business has grown for what I think are two reasons: they are just as committed to doing well as they are to doing good. The result is that they are “busy and blessed.”

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What do I mean by “doing well and doing good?” “Doing well” means working hard, building your clientele base, finding out what people want and need, and providing it for them. “Doing good” means the ways you give back, and the heart you have to strengthen your community. Sweet Thymes does both, and their crew helps them. They have worked hard to fix up the building, and you would never know that it was once used for purposes that were far less than honorable.

The day I was in the shop for the interview, a customer came in whose spouse is in the thick of a battle with cancer. Kelli told me, “Our food is one of the few things that tastes good to him because of the chemo.” I know for a fact that Kelli understands that the first ingredient of anything she makes for her customers has to be love, and making food for this family that is going through such a tough time is making a difference.

Word has gotten around, and many businesses in town have Sweet Thymes do their lunches. If the order is at least $40, they will even deliver if it’s in the immediate Athens area. Below is an example of a recent menu, which change daily and are posted on Facebook, along with the phone number to call in the order:

11-4-2016-9-25-35-amChicken Casserole
Chicken Alfredo
Baked Ham Sub or Plate
Honey Pecan Chicken
Greek Chicken Pasta w/ cherry tomatoes, spinach, & basil
Greek Grilled Chicken
Taco Chicken Quesadilla
Wrap w/ toppings choice
Spinach Salad with choice of toppings and/or meat (extra charge)
Hot Sides:
Sautéed Mushrooms
Cream Corn
Loaded Grits Casserole
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Brown Sugar Bourbon Carrots
Sautéed Cabbage
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Sautéed Asparagus
Squash & Onions
Roasted Cauliflower
Toppings Choice:
Cheese, Mushrooms, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions, Bell Peppers, Bacon, Pepperoncini Peppers, Pickles, Jalapeno Peppers, Banana Peppers.
Dressings: Sriracha Ranch, Blue Cheese, or our Homemade Ranch.
Cold Salads:
Chicken Salad
Pasta Salad
Broccoli Salad
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Pimento Cheese
Jalapeno Pimento Cheese
Peach Pretzel Salad
Wedge Salad (cheese, bacon crumbles, and choice of herbed ranch or blue cheese dressing)
Breads:
Cornbread
Herb and Cheese Biscuits
Rosemary Rolls
Croissant
Desserts:
Roasted Peanuts (gallon bag $5)
Chocolate Cobbler
Drinks:
Sweet or Unsweet Tea
Coke Products
Bottled Water

11-4-2016-9-25-13-amI had the honey pecan chicken, the squash and onions, and the garlic mashed potatoes. Oh, I never wanted it to end. I sat outside at the picnic table, and enjoyed the morning glories that were growing on the fence. And then reluctantly I went back to work.

One of the things that makes the food so good is that Jordan grows the herbs right there on site. Kelli told me recently that they heard from a customer that “she could taste the fresh herbs, and it made all the difference.”

The catering side of Sweet Thymes has really taken off. They have done wedding receptions at Athens State, Rotary lunches, proms, showers, retirement parties, and more. Here is a comment from a satisfied customer:

Catered my son’s Thanksgiving party at school and everything was so organized! Everyone’s plate had their name on it they even sent an extra plate of food just in case we needed it! Plenty of sauces and utensils included!! I heard so many comments through out the party at how amazing the food tasted! We were all blown away!

Speaking of Thanksgiving and the holidays, orders are beginning to pour in. Kelli will be making everything from cakes and pies to turkeys and hams to what she calls “full on meals.” Remember, everything is made from scratch and with love, and you will have a sweet time enjoying the fare of Sweet Thymes Bakery and Meals to go.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-21-2016-3-27-45-pmIn 2012, when I interviewed Ben Harrison during his successful campaign for Limestone County District 4 Commissioner, I was intrigued by his blend of career experience in corporate America, as well as that of a small businessman.

Ben grew up on his family’s farm in rural West Limestone County. He is married to Beth McGuire Harrison, and together they have 4 children, Erin, Caleb, Olivia and Emily, as well as two grandchildren. Family and traditional values have always been central to the way Ben does things. This is one of the many reasons why he’s so concerned about the direction our country is headed. “It really makes me sad when I think about the Government debt and burdens we are leaving for future generations,” he said. Fighting for our community and children’s futures is one of the main reasons he got involved in politics, and was a deciding factor in his decision to run for political office. “I’m not a politician and sometimes that gets me in trouble, but I am going to stand for what I believe in and not back down just because it’s politically correct,” he stated with conviction.

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Ben’s conservative world view and his experience in the business world make him an excellent watchman over county spending. He knows how to spot and eliminate wasteful expenditures without curtailing services. A recent example was the Grigsby Ferry bridge project in West Limestone County. Grigsby Ferry Road had a one lane bridge which was old and needed to be upgraded. Ben was told the only option was a new bridge at a cost of 250K. That seemed exorbitant and unnecessary, so he looked for alternatives that would be safe, and also save money. He found a solution by changing designs and utilizing round culverts instead of a traditional box bridge design. The upgrade cost only 32K, and saved us (the taxpayers) a whopping 218 thousand dollars.

In addition, when Ben took over as District 4 Commissioner, the District was over 200,000.00 dollars in debt, and the entirety of that debt has now been paid off under Ben’s leadership. That is no small accomplishment in an era when measurable fiscal solvency has been relegated to the realm of suggestion rather than necessity.

Ben says his desire is to always be a wise steward of taxpayers’ money, and be attentive to the needs of the community. He feels it’s been an honor to serve as County Commissioner, and enjoys working with the people of District 4. Ben believes, “We live in a blessed area,” and he says he wants to “keep it that way.”

10-21-2016-3-28-02-pmAs County Commissioner, Ben’s biggest concerns are centered around road maintenance and improvement, i.e. improving the quality and safety of our roads while reducing costs. His priority is to do the job right, taking care of the base and drainage before he resurfaces current roads. He is investigating a different way to chip seal roads that will result in a smoother and longer lasting surface. During his first term, Ben has been a strong supporter of eliminating unnecessary government projects and diverting that revenue to our road system. With District 4 getting less money per road mile compared to the other districts, these issues are especially important to him. If re-elected, he will continue to be an advocate for better roads, not only in District 4, but throughout Limestone County.

Transparency is also something that is important to citizens of our county as well as those of our nation as a whole. Ben has been talking about government transparency since he took office, and if it were up to him, he would post the county books online for easy review by citizens. By that, Ben means, “every transaction, who wrote what check, and from what account”. Baldwin County already does it and Ben believes it would be a good move for us. He would also like to have Limestone County Commission’s work sessions recorded. “We currently record our regular meetings, but adding the work sessions would give people an added level of background as to what we are voting on during those meetings.”

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While many think of County Commissioners as being only “the road guys,” Ben says with a passion, “Our job is also to protect the liberties and freedoms of citizens,” and that means public safety as well as their pocket books. He has been a consistent supporter of private property rights, and opposing tax increases on the hard working people of Limestone County. Now that he is a grandfather, he is even more passionate about building a lasting foundation for his grandkids’ future that starts with roads and goes from there.

If this is what you are looking for in a Limestone County Commissioner, then Ben Harrison would appreciate your voting to return him to his “watch” over District 4 on November 8th.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner