By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie rolled in, greeting everyone on the way, full of enthusiasm about the Poke Sallet Follies which had been held the previous Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Follies were by all accounts a big hit. City Councilman Frank Travis had taken on the role of director, and the theme for this year was “The Book of Athens,” with specially produced vignettes from the past 200 years of our city and county history.

“We have gotten so much positive feedback from people,” said the mayor. “Frank and his crew—the actors, the people who built props, did the sound and lighting, all the volunteers, everyone did a fantastic job,” he added. “There was a lot of live music this year. Usually Poke Sallet raises between $18,000 and $20,000 for the Council on Aging,” he said, and while he had not been told the amount of this year’s take, he expected it to be good. Since we have been doing a series on Steve Gilliam’s book, Enjoy The Ride, it was gratifying to know that because once again Athens had come together for a worthy cause, our town had a great chance to put “legs” to the title of the book as well as its theme, and create something both enjoyable as well as memorable for our whole area.

Since our last meeting two weeks ago, Mayor Marks and the finance team had been to New York City to face down the financial industry “powers that be” with respect to our bond rating as a city. “It went well, and because of everyone’s hard work, we have one of the highest ratings of any city in the state of Alabama,” he said. The result is that we now have approval for the $20 million dollar package that will serve to build the new Sportsplex facility, the new Parks and Rec building, and to build the Pilgrim’s Pride Park.

We moved on to the newest section of Enjoy The Ride, and Mayor Ronnie read me some of the things that had been speaking to him. As always, the end game with anything that he reads is to cultivate a cognitive lifestyle that is doggedly positive while being realistic, along with being solid with respect to biblical principles. Understanding the actual phenomenon of motivation, how it works, and when it is either misused or misapplied is most important. The kind of motivation that comes from the half-time pep talk or Sunday morning sermon is at best short-lived if people are not inspired to think then act in a way that fosters long-term habits. Gilliand says it this way:

“Most motivation is like a bowl of cereal—it just doesn’t last long, and you end up hungry in a few hours. As a speaker and author I firmly believe my primary purpose is to get a person thinking. When I can penetrate a person’s heart through their mind, I have found the ultimate source of their motivation. Motivation is an inside job that is determined by the individual person. The greatest thing you will ever learn is to use what you learn.”

We then talked about wanting to be the kind of people who could provide more than the motivational equivalent of empty-calorie cereal, and growing on to become self-motivated so that we could inspire ourselves as well as others when we need to. Once again Mayor Ronnie had a “fire” to put out, so he put on his “Smokey the Bear” hat; we prayed for wisdom, protection, and strength for the task; and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It had been two weeks full of wins: the Home & Garden Show was a great success, Chili Challenge was bursting at the seams with attendees, and the Athens-Limestone Community Association’s 5th Annual Black History Month celebration was a total delight. “Given how polarized our country is right now, it is nice to know that people in Athens are coming together,” said the mayor.

Mayor Ronnie was getting ready to leave the next day for the Big Apple. He and a finance team were going to make a presentation regarding securing funding for the new Rec Center. You may recall, the last time they went to New York City, Birmingham/Jefferson County had just made national news by declaring bankruptcy, and the lenders were initially certain that Athens-Limestone County had been cut from the same cloth. Because of the soundness of fiscal practices in our city along with an excellent presentation, they came home with a funding package for the new high school. Mayor Ronnie was confident that the team would return home this time with good news as well; still, high finance meetings in New York are not a walk in the park, and he was looking forward to getting back home as soon as possible.

We turned to the discussion of the title of the series, Enjoy The Ride. It was about attitude, and the mayor was glad to be having a reminder of the fact that, as author Steve Gilliand says, “Your attitude is either your best friend or your worst enemy. Your reactions to other people, however, are really just barometers for how you perceive yourself. Your reactions to others say more about you than they do about others.” Gilliand says it again later in the chapter more briefly: “Our attitude determines our approach to life. Nothing is as contagious as example.”

We then discussed the role of adversity when it comes to determining attitude. “No one likes failure,” said the mayor, and I nodded. “But fumbling is a part of football, and failing is a part of success,” he said, and that’s a quote from the book. I then had an unusually powerful opportunity to personally fail, and to test the mayor’s attitude. I am fairly well-known for talking with my hands, and as I gestured while we were talking about attitude and failure, I managed to knock over my coffee, soak the mayor’s autographed copy of Enjoy The Ride, ruin the copy of the presentation that he would make in NYC, and create a pool of java all over the round table in his office where we always sit. It was the perfect storm. I ran to find some paper towels, cleaned up my mess, and he will have a reminder forever of the chance he had to “bring his own sunshine.” This wasn’t just any book I had inadvertently baptized, it had been autographed by the author at a conference the mayor had attended with other mayors. I am pleased to report that Mayor Ronnie passed the test with flying colors. He could tell I felt badly, and he assured me all was well.

So, there was nothing left to do but pray, and pray we did. And then, it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
This particular Monday started off with a particularly meaningful set of thoughts about Mondays. We knew that we were going to continue on our series centered around Steve Gilliand’s Enjoy The Ride. And Mayor Ronnie mentioned that in Gilliand’s book, he discusses a secretary that worked for him for many years who would start off each work week by declaring, “I hate Mondays.” The mayor sipped his coffee and said, “Think of that! That is 1/7th of your life, and you are going to lose it by choosing to hate it? What a waste!” I nodded in the affirmative, as I had just come off a weekend of battling the crud, and knew that I needed to step it up, even though it would seem justifiable to rue the day along with the cough that functioned as an involuntary workout of one’s core. Gilliand used to be an anti-Monday type of guy, but then he came up with an antidote to his secretary’s “Eeyore vibe.” In Enjoy The Ride, he says cheerfully, “Life picks on everyone. Don’t take it personally.”

Mayor Ronnie had just come from Leak City, where he had welcomed the latest conference attendees to the rigorous week-long seminar held several times a year to teach them how to manage all kinds of hazmat and fire-related disasters. This current group hailed from places as far as Puerto Rico and Idaho, and as always, the mayor invited them to experience our special brand of Classic. Southern. Character. We talked about the fact that Leak City was a wonderful way to send our essence as a town out to places all over the country who would have never heard of us, and acknowledged that the outstanding job Steve Carter and his crew do in training these folks could be indirectly having a positive impact on our growth. He said that amongst other things, he had encouraged the attendees to explore Athens on their downtime, starting with the Mardi Gras parade.

The State of the City address had gone well, and the State of the County luncheon and address is coming up. It will be held in the Limestone County Event Center on February 28 at noon, and tickets can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce. “This is a time of tremendous growth in our city and county, and people need to come out and hear what is going on, and what’s coming up,” the mayor said.
We both talked about what a beautiful job the County had done in pulling off the 200th birthday bash held in the Event Center. The photos, displays, memorabilia, refreshments, music, presentations, all of it were top-drawer. Mayor Ronnie mentioned that when the City of Athens does their celebration in November, Mooresville is invited to be a part of the party, due to the fact that the incorporation of both towns occurred within days of each other.

As always, so many things were coming up, including the Home and Garden Show, Chili Challenge, Poke Sallet, and more, and so we thanked God for our blessings, in our time and in our lives. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
On Wednesday, January 31, Mayor Ronnie Marks gave his annual State of the City address at the Athens State University Ballroom. The room was full and the food was good. For several years, the mayor has found that a specific book serves well to provide a theme for the address, and this year’s selection was Steve Gilliam’s Enjoy The Ride. Gilliam’s continual point is that, one way or another, there is going to be a journey, and since “no one gets out of here alive,” everyone from a city to a family or an individual would be well-served to find a way to enjoy the journey.

Currently we have many reasons to enjoy the ride. The recent announcement of the Toyota plant and the thousands of jobs it will create was even mentioned Tuesday night in President Trump’s State of the Union speech. We have successfully finished negotiating with Pilgrim’s Pride, and now have the deed to the property that has been legendary for its blight. Now there are bright prospects for the land to be beautifully re-purposed. The new Athens High School is coming right along, and construction has begun on the new Athens Bible School.

The plans were revealed for the new 70,000-square-foot Parks and Recreation building, as well as the architect’s rendering of the building planned for the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce; there was much discussion about the grants received for various road improvements, including sidewalks and bridges, sewers, and the need for a road to be made connecting Forrest St. all the way down to where Chick-fil-A meets Highway 72.

There was much discussion about our 200 year birthday celebrations, for both Limestone County and the city of Athens, and a reminder of some of our most famous citizens. We were reminded of how blessed we have been to have people like Patty Malone, Judge James Horton, Mary Wells, Governor Houston, and more. We were reminded that City Councilman Frank Travis is heading up this year’s special production of Poke Sallet, which will be a revue of the 200 years that have made Athens-Limestone County the wonderful place that it is.

As heartening as all the good news of economic development, housing developments, and infrastructure improvements may be, what I think rang true for all those attending is that the greatest thing being developed in our area is our young people. Students from the current Mayor’s Youth Commission, now in its 5th year, made statements that were shown as part of the slide presentation. They talked about how much they love our town, how safe they feel, and how much they have enjoyed being a part of the Commission.
But, I think the best was saved til last. Third grader Madisyn Marshall, who was the 3rd grade winner of the Martin Luther King Essay Contest, wrote in her essay that she planned to be President of the United States when she turns 35. Apparently, she has it all planned out because she said that in order to do so, she is first going to have to be a United States Senator. And, I think it’s safe to say that we are all going to enjoy the ride as we cheer her on.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie and I met on Wednesday due to the wild and wooly-coat weather, both of us scrambling to get caught up. As always, the mayor made me laugh with a tale of some kind of recent caper, and all of it played into us deciding on this article as the launch for the Enjoy The Ride series. The book is written by Steve Gilliand, whom Mayor Ronnie had heard speak at a national mayor’s conference, and its subtitle is: The True Joy Of Life Is In The Trip!

The “caper” had to do with the fact that there are thankfully a number of department heads who know how to find humor in almost any situation; the mayor had called one who actually had the authority to meet his unusual request and said, “Please flood the streets so we can make ice for everyone to slide on.” The reply? “Mr. Mayor, I’ll get around to it in July.” In addition, our City Attorney valiantly tried to slide down Marion Street, which is also known to old-timers as “Ice Pick Hill,” but unfortunately there wasn’t enough ice to get much traction. With all kidding aside, Mayor Ronnie shook his head in gratitude and said, “We’ve got guys out in 6 degree weather taking care of power outages.” The utilities guys are an important part of our team of first responders, and they are the best.

In spite of the weather, the week had started out with one of the mayor’s favorite celebration days of the year — Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. “It is always a great day,” he said. “The kids’ essays were good, and this year we had artwork, too. Raven Warner won the essay contest, again. There was the parade to the Event Center, and church at Sweet Home, which is always wonderful. It’s one of my favorite days because of the chance to fellowship, and it builds the community,” the mayor said.

Before we talked about Steve Gilliam’s book, we touched on the recent announcement of the new Toyota plant, and how it kicks up the need to plan well for future growth. Mayor Ronnie will be addressing that challenge on January 31 at the State of the City address to be held at the ASU Ballroom. The topic is “200 Years of Classic. Southern. Character,” and the question, as it relates to quality of life, is one of balance: How do we maintain the historical essence of our city and what makes it so special, and prepare well for the soon-oncoming population explosion?

Well, keeping a sense of humor is certainly a part of it, which is why Gilliam’s book is so timely. “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance,” is the opening statement in the book, and the author is unknown. He also says, “Your life’s work can be found where God’s plan intersects with your passion.” It is not at all uncommon for authors to make bookmarks as part of their give-away promotional bundles, and Gilliam’s is one of the best I’ve seen. He takes every letter of the alphabet and assigns a word that functions as “The ABCs to enjoy the ride.” They are: appreciate, believe, care, dream, encourage, forgive, give, help, imagine, joke, kindle, listen, mentor, nurture, observe, pray, quality, read, sympathize, trust, understand, value, walk, x-pect, yearn, and zealous.” I could tell that it was time to buckle up, as this was going to be quite the ride as we travel through this book.

It was also time to pray, as the mayor had a meeting, and so we did. Then once again, Ronnie had to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie and the City Hall crew “rolled” back into the office on January 2, and the prevailing theme amongst the staff is that 2018 is going to be “an awesome year.” Holly Hollman, Communications Director and Grant Specialist for the City of Athens, sat in with us for a bit; together we took a look back at 2017 and a big look forward to the year ahead. It is the 200th birthday of Limestone County, which will be celebrated in February, as well as the City of Athens, which will be celebrated in November. Between now and then, we will have many occasions and opportunities to “party hearty” with regard to our amazing abode here in North Alabama.

The brief look back at 2017 was about enjoying what got finished, including being in the black by a million dollars, as well as what got started. The remodeled Limestone County Courthouse held its first session of court on January 3, 2017, and the colored lighting system, as well as the carols being played on the sound system during this past holiday, made the season on the Square even more festive. The new Athens High School is coming along well, and ground has been broken on the Athens Bible School building on Hwy 31. It is the 75th year for the Bible School, and the building will be beautiful. The Scout House renovation project is moving right along, and the Chamber of Commerce is going to get new digs in their same location on Beaty Street. Approval was also granted to build a new Parks and Recreation Center. Construction of sidewalks, repair of streets, and the razing of condemned properties “kept on rollin’.” We also gave thanks for the guys who were out in this frigid weather climbing poles and making sure the power got back on quickly.

On a personal note, Mayor Ronnie says he feels like he is “almost 100%” recovered from his recent intestinal surgery, and is grateful that the growths in question were benign. Having lost several family members to cancer, the unveiling of this year’s Relay For Life T-shirt, which has incorporated our bicentennial into the logo, meant a great deal to him. The shirts go on sale soon, and were designed by Holly Hollman and Kelly Cain.

For the first quarter of 2018, there is a major event occurring every month. January 15 is Martin Luther King’s birthday as well as the Essay Contest, and please remember that Monday, January 8 is the deadline to get your entries in. For more information, see the flyer on page 24. On January 31, Mayor Ronnie gives the State of the City address. More details on that to come.

February will be the month that Limestone County celebrates its 200th birthday as “the County that is older than the State.” Their party will be held at the Limestone County Event Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, you can call Michelle Williamson at 256-233-6400, or visit the Limestone County Bicentennial page on Facebook.

Poke Sallet Follies will be in March, and the theme is “The Book of Athens.” It will be under the capable leadership of City Councilman Frank Travis, and will highlight our 200-year journey as Athenians. The annual Boy Scouts of America Breakfast will be in April.

We moved on to a happy subject that the mayor couldn’t really discuss, and by that I mean the fact that there are a number of industrial and retail corporations courting us, and as always, the details must remain under wraps until the ink is dry. If these entities decide that Athens is the “match made in Heaven,” the result could not only be a few thousand jobs but, according to the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, could conservatively mean that by 2040, we’ll experience at least a 30% growth in our city/county population, and most likely more. Growing pains are no laughing matter, and one of the things that Mayor Ronnie spends a lot of energy on is planning for growth. “We need to pull smart people to plan well,” he said. Everything has to be considered: water, sanitation, power, streets, public safety, infrastructure in general, and quality of life specifically. We have seen examples in our area of what happens when there is explosive growth without a cohesive plan; so right now, this is what keeps him “up at night,” as the saying goes.

The only thing that remained for us to do was pray, mostly for wisdom and strength to meet the challenges of 2018 as well as thank God for our abundant blessings, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie came into the office dressed for the interview he was due to film for the promotional spot on our area’s sport fishing areas to be produced later this year by Fishing University. It has been amazing to see how quickly he has bounced back from his surgery, and he was focused on all the heartwarming things going on in Athens to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.”

The Mayor asked me, “Have you ever heard John Malone and the Athens High School Choir?” I nodded enthusiastically in the affirmative, and he was so excited that the choir was going to be singing at Athens State University. The Christmas Parade had been the previous Thursday, as had been the lighting of the tree as well as the new Courthouse lights. Brian Patterson, who is our Limestone County Revenue Commissioner, put together a float called “Alice In A Winter Wonderland.” It was so stunning that it won the best float award in both the Athens as well as Ardmore parades. The Lincoln-Bridgeforth Christmas event started by the late Jimmy Gill was due to be a great success, too, and Holly Hollman goes into more detail in her column on page………

Mayor Ronnie called Holly in to the office to tell us about what’s going on with the kids in the Mayor’s Youth Commission. They were in the middle of a project where they were split into two groups: one went to High Cotton Arts to paint on canvasses, and the rest went to the water treatment plant to learn about how a municipal water facility is run. But don’t worry, once they come back from Christmas break, the groups will switch. By the way, the stats are in: Athens has the 5th purest water in the entire state of Alabama!

The Youth Commission is an idea whose time has indeed come, and other cities in Alabama are looking to Athens to help them start their own group. The League of Municipalities Leadership Institute had just been held at Ross Bridge in Birmingham. Montevallo and Alabaster were present and are on board with their own Commissions, and Decatur has become very interested in starting one as well. Sippin’ Cider had been successful, and part of the reason was that there were six kids from our Commission helping to serve.

Our bi-centennial celebration preparations are moving along, and Councilman Frank Travis is heading up Poke Sallet, which will be a stage production that tells the story of our wonderful town. The County’s birthday is in February of 2018, and the City’s is in November.

Athens Fire Chief Brian Thornton came in to talk about the annual Shopping With A Firefighter event. Every year for the past 19 years, school counselors have given the Fire Department the names of families who could use a boost at Christmas time. They are then paired with a Firefighter who goes with them to shop. It is not at all uncommon for kids to want to use their “treat money” to buy groceries for their family or something special for a parent or sibling, and the event is greatly loved by all who participate.

Mayor Ronnie closed our time with the happy reminder that we ended up with a million dollars more in revenue than expenses, and promised that we would go into more detail next time we get together. Then, even though he was a bit hoarse, he broke into his own rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year,” and Holly and I said, “Give it up, Mr. Mayor,” which he has apparently been told before. He came back with, “We about to bust into a great new year!” Then we prayed, and it was time for the last time in 2017 for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It was Mayor Ronnie’s first day back at work after surgery, and I had to admit I was a bit worried that he would hit the ground runnin’ like he always does and try to do too much, too soon. However, he is an adult and knows his own limits. So, laying my well-intentioned misgivings aside, it was time to hear about all the progress being made with regard to our most famous blighted property, none other than the former site of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant.

The mayor started our time together with celebrating the fact that over 300 condemned properties, which had formerly been havens for hustlers and drugs, had been legally torn down after due process. “And, almost 90% of the demolition costs have been paid by the property owners,” he said. He went on to tell about a time around 5 years ago when he was taken by some legal and land development professionals from our area out to Pilgrim’s Progress, and who bluntly said to him,

“This is the most blighted piece of property in our county.” Mayor Ronnie knew it was time to get going with solving what was going to be a complex problem, and “got after it.” The City of Athens had to track down the Point of Contact for Pilgrim’s Pride, and finally found him in South America because the company had been sold to a foreign corporation.

From that point on, Mayor Ronnie would begin each conversation he had with the Pilgrim’s Pride folks with the phrase, “You need to write this off and donate it to the City of Athens,” setting forth the hope that they could see the benefit in being immortalized as the “Patrons of the Park.” They weren’t having it.

In 2014, Mayor Ronnie was selected by Design Alabama to make a presentation regarding the challenges of dealing with an abandoned, blighted commercial property, which in turn caught the attention of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Their involvement helped put our “Pilgrim’s Plight” on the map, and other cities in Alabama, as well other states, who were facing a similar problem, reached out to Mayor Ronnie for coaching.

The mayor put together an offer to purchase the property for $500, 000, and at first, Pilgrim’s Pride wasn’t having that, either. However, after nearly five years of negotiations, we now have an agreement for a purchase price of $550,000. “It has been a long process, a good process, and we have a great opportunity for a development,” he said. He then added, “I think this is going to be one of the best projects we have ever done.” It will cost another $500,000 for demolition and to bring every aspect of the property back to a place where one can “sow and mow.“

So, what are the plans for “sowing and mowing”? Well, we have private investors who are interested in developing the area in part for multi-use applications, including shops, high-end residential units, restaurants, and more. If it goes through, it will be our own version of Bridge Street, and it will help us to fend off our neighbors’ endeavors to absorb us. Pilgrim’s Pride has the potential to be one of the best gifts we can give ourselves as we prepare for the future.

I asked the mayor, “Do you think we are growing well?” I certainly know what it’s like to see developments spring up quickly, which result in fostering chaos. He thought for a moment and said, “I really do think we are.”

The next day Mayor Ronnie would get his surgical staples removed, and I grimaced as we began to pray. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll, and I resisted the temptation to remind him that “Slow and steady wins the race.” The man was clearly happy to be back in the saddle, even if he was going to have to ease into it, and most grateful for all the support sent his way by the folks of our city.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted a few days before Mayor Ronnie had surgery, and he is recovering well.

“Well,” said Mayor Ronnie, “In a few days I am finally going to have a battle scar.” It’s typical for him to look for the humor in most things, so we exchanged chuckles with quips such as “spilling your guts” or “You’re getting drawn and quartered.” But when it comes to dealing with unwelcome growths, it’s just best to “git ‘er dun.” A while back he had gone in for a routine exam, and the doc said that the next step was going to have to be a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy showed a 3”-4” tumor that needed to come out immediately, and the surgery was scheduled to be done at Athens-Limestone Hospital. “Thank God they found this, and thank God I am going to be good as new. The doctors say that I am going to need about 2-3 weeks recovery time, and my 1944 Chevy body is going to be back on the road.” The mayor said that there was no indication beforehand that the tumor was cancerous, and mentioned again the importance of self-care, a topic that understandably was on his mind on a number of fronts. “Us guys are just the worst in the world about this kind of stuff,” he said.

Continuing on the subject of care, Mayor Ronnie said, “The City of Athens is in good hands, and so am I.” He explained that the department heads will continue to be in charge of their respective teams, and that Annette Barnes Threet will be fielding messages. Mayor Ronnie smiled and said, “I only live 5 blocks away. They know where to find me if they need me.” City Council will continue to function as usual, and everyone is determined to let the mayor fully rest while he recovers.
Mayor Ronnie had just been at a strategic planning conference for North Alabama which had been held at Redstone Arsenal. “Our area has grown 15.9%. There are new industries courting us, and new retail projects to be located out by the interstate,” he said. Mayor Ronnie had also just attended a waste water conference and said, “You’ll get stopped up if you don’t take care of yourself, and that goes for the city.”

The mayor also mentioned that it had just been decided to have City Councilman Frank Travis be the director for the 2018 Poke Sallet Follies, which will coincide with our bi-centennial celebration. “It’s a huge job, and we are glad he is willing and able to take it on.” For several years, Poke Sallet was directed by the late Jackie Greenhaw, who passed away in June, and those are some tough shoes to fill. Frank certainly has the experience and will do a beautiful job.

It was time to pray, and pray we did. I was struck with just how dependent we all are upon the grace of God for everything, and how fragile life is. But, the mayor was confident, as was I, that all would be well, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll before he got rolled on in to the operating room to “git ‘er dun.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie was not going to be available for our usual meeting, so he asked Amy Golden, Customer Relations Manager for the City of Athens and Athens Arts League president, to fill in for him and bring us up to speed with regard to the Scout Music House. A little background—The Scout House, which is located on the corner of Washington and East Streets in historic Athens was built by the W.P.A., or Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression; the need for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is never greater than during a national crisis. The charming building, complete with a stone fireplace, bay windows, and hardwood floors had many uses throughout the years. Amy’s mother’s Brownie troop met there, some folks claim it was where they got their first kiss, and until a few years ago, it was used for office space by the Athens City Schools.

One day, Amy, City of Athens Communications Specialist Holly Hollman, and Athens Arts League Program Chair Diane Lehr were brainstorming about a good use for the building, which was also at times referred to as “Little Red,” and came up with the idea of a Music House. The Athens Arts League and High Cotton Arts Center have been busy and successful working towards solidifying the rightful place of creativity and the development of artistic presence in our community, but there was no comparable venue for music. The Scout House seemed like the perfect place, and it was also a wonderful re-purposing project. “The Arts League felt compelled to offer music,” Amy said simply.

Amy told me, “The response of the community has been phenomenal, which highlights the community’s awareness of the need for this type of project.” There have been private donations of just a few dollars on up to generous corporate ones, most recently the $30,000 gift from the Steelcase Foundation, and a $40,000 grant from the DEKKO Foundation. In addition, a handicapped entrance has been built. Lowe’s has been greatly involved with landscaping and materials, and as usual I am concerned that I am leaving someone out who has stepped up and given. My apologies in advance! The Athens Arts League is a 501 3C not-for-profit organization, and all donations are tax deductable.

Amy continued, “The music world has changed so much over the years, and it has become a business. Our hope is that the Scout Music House will become both a state of the art music production center, as well as a place where students can learn the business side of music.” They will also be holding concerts there, and the target age is elementary school age kids through high school. Our school system has been solidly behind this project, and understands the importance of music in education and cognitive development.

“We want the Scout Music House to be a safe haven where kids can go and hone their talent, and achieve their dreams,” said Amy as we concluded our time together. And then it was time for Amy to roll, but not before she said, “You know, someone probably has the old W.P.A. bronze plaque that used to be on the building sitting in their den, or has an idea where it might be.” If that’s you, and you want to part with it for a worthy cause, you can give her a call at 256-262-1525.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner