11-4-2016-10-11-58-amMayor Ronnie was covered up far beyond his usual M.O. of runnin’ and gunnin’ from dawn til dark, and so he asked me to give his slot to the most recent addition to the Athens City Council, Frank Travis. Frank and I met for our interview at the KALB Gulf Station, and I asked him to tell me about his first 100 days in office.

For those of you who may not know, Frank was appointed to replace City Councilman and former Council President Jimmy Gill, who passed away earlier this year. Frank then was planning on running for the office this summer, along with other council members who had opponents, except that no one opposed Frank. He will have to run for re-election in four years, providing he is opposed. He was glad that he got to spend the summer learning the ropes rather than campaigning, and I asked him to tell me about it.

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“Well,” he said, “I have enjoyed how much the Mayor truly loves our city and all the people in it. He really does care about everyone. I always knew it, but it’s something to see it in action.” I nodded in agreement. “We have a truly diverse set of people on the council,” he said, and added, “They think differently about certain things, but in the end they come together to make decisions that are the best for the city.” I was glad to hear that, too. “What I have been touched by is the outpouring of support that has come from everyone in the community. White, black, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter. They have made it very clear that they are behind me.” Then he laughed and said, “I haven’t gotten any calls from upset folks yet, but I’m sure that’s coming.”

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I asked him, “What has surprised you the most?” He said, “I think it’s how much you are on duty all the time when you are in public office. I had someone come up to me at a funeral to discuss city stuff, and that was new. I didn’t mind, and I was glad they felt free to do it; it was just different.” We laughed about how careful you have to be all the time because people are watching you, and “someone is kin to someone everywhere you go. You never know who you are talking to.” He also said that a big surprise is that while actual council meetings oftentimes don’t last all that long, the real work is on the outside of the boardroom. “I have several breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings each week,” and patting his tummy, he added, “I gotta watch it.” I teased back by saying, “Yep, that kind of work will get you every time.”

Frank continued with, “A lot of people are not aware that we are not allowed, by state law, to talk with more than one fellow council member at a time about city business outside of the meeting room. The law was put into place to prevent back room deals being made,” and I added, “with a bunch of cigar smoke hanging in the air.” Frank is famous for his laugh and said, “Believe me, there are no back room deals being made.” He said that when several of them are in the same place at the same time for civic events, they are careful to avoid “talking shop,” which would be so easy to do.

We finished up our time talking about strategies to strengthen relations between the African-American and Hispanic communities in Athens, and he has been talking with Maria Taylor about ways to accomplish that. We then prayed for Athens, and we most definitely “had church” while we were at it. Then, it was time for Frank to roll right on to his next 100 days.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-21-2016-2-22-22-pmThe mayor had emerged refreshed and inspired from the weekend, and heard a message at church given by a man by the name of Craig Jutila. Craig has a website and “brand” that caught my eye, and it is www.whowillyouempower.com. The theme of “empowering” is something that is certainly near and dear to the mayor’s heart, as is evidenced in the Youth Commission. Craig’s message on Sunday morning had to do with what he called the “time-starved family,” and posed the question, “What should I feed my time-starved kids?” Craig asked the question: “Is it easier to raise kids now, or 25 years ago?” I would have to say 25 years ago because social media had not yet become a set point for cultural definition.

Mayor Ronnie laughed as he told me one of Craig’s tales about the combination of having too many choices and too many “devices.” Craig, who is from California, had taken his family out for what he thought would be a fairly straightforward family outing, going to a movie. He was standing in line to buy tickets, while the family was off to the side, out of earshot, all absorbed in keeping up with what was on their phones. The viewing choices had to do with IMAX, Surround Sound, or just regular, and because Craig couldn’t get the attention of his family, even by texting, he chose IMAX. The four tickets cost him $98.00!

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And while Craig sees the value of technology and even social media, he acknowledges that we are hurrying ever faster to get through life, and our kids are suffering. Using Scripture to seal his points, he said, “Feed your kids a healthy lifestyle, moments of rest, and uninterrupted time together.” That means that there have to be times when everyone’s cell phone is off, with no exceptions. There is simply no other way to defeat “the tyranny of the urgent.”

Mayor Ronnie’s first experience with texting was at an Alabama basketball game about ten years ago, where a girl showed him her text sent to another girl about a cute boy at the game, and he assumed one of the girls was not present. He had a chance to chat with her further, and to his surprise, both of them were just a few feet away from each other. The reason for texting rather than sitting together and talking was simply explained as, “I like it this way.”

He, like the rest of us, has to manage what comes through on his phones and his email, and there are days he feels like he’ll never get to the end of the electronic to-do list. However, the other part of Craig’s message was one that we all need to take to heart, whether we are Facebook fanatics or not: learn to recognize the seasons, and live each season well. “We are just in too much of a rush, all the way through life,” he said. “We want to get married and have kids, and then we are anxious to have them leave. Then we are impatient about them coming back with grandkids, and on it goes.” One of the solutions Craig gave was to recognize what season you are in, and live it to the fullest. “Don’t rush through it!”

“The season we are in is fast growth in Limestone County, and we must build the foundation that can handle growth and be a support for families,” the mayor said. It was then time to pray, and it was a mutual “Lord, help us” prayer. On this particular day he was dealing with potholes along with projects that could garner several million dollars in economic growth for our city and county, and he needed help from on high, without apology. Then, as the time had flown by once again, and our phones chirped demandingly, it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-7-2016-12-36-39-pmAs I have talked about before, Mayor Ronnie is one of those rare birds who absolutely loves budgets. To him, they are like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and when by state law that last piece is put in place by September 30th, he and the rest of City Council is free to enjoy Fiddlers’ and Storytelling. With this year being special anniversaries for both, he was especially glad that the “budget came in on time and under budget.”

He was very pleased to report that the General Fund will be $1.2 million dollars in the black, and our city is in good shape to face several challenges. First of all, there are several city employees who have reached retirement age, and as is the case with many Baby Boomers, funding their retirement packages is not easy, by virtue of the fact that we are a huge part of the population.
“We are going to be able to get the fire truck we need, and it is on its way,” he said. Other things that are going to be able to be purchased will be a garbage truck and new police cars. “Public safety is always going to be our top priority,” he said, and the top two budget items were both tied to filling that need.

He spent a good deal of time expressing his gratitude for the work of all the department heads, City Council members and especially that of Annette Barnes. I know from experience that the woman’s command with numbers, both those that are in “the red” as well as those in “the black” is phenomenal. “Tons of work was done prior to the vote on the budget,” he said. He mentioned that Councilman Frank Travis, the newest member of Athens City Council was amazed at the work Annette had done before they had their all day work session to button up the budget.

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“We got it done, and now we can head straight in to festival season,” said Mayor Ronnie. He took a moment to reflect on the positive effect the 5K runs have on our community. He started with the 9/11 Heroes’ Run, the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful Duck and Run, the Apple Annie Charity 5K, and as one who has run in those races, I can say he has always been on hand early on race day to cheer people on. In addition, this weekend the Wacky Quacky Ducky Derby will be held on Saturday during Fiddlers’, and he will even be on hand to cheer on the ducks as they “fly” down the spillway of Big Spring Park.

“Festival season is just that much sweeter because the budget is finished,” he said with reasonable pride. Then he mentioned his concern for Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson, who, at the time of our interview was in Athens Limestone Hospital battling pneumonia. “Oh, man,” I said, “Let’s pray.” So we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.

It was later that day it was with great joy that I got the news that Chief had been released from the hospital to his home, and as far as I am concerned, for all of us, that was as sweet as the music of any festival, and the best of any stories.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

9-16-2016-10-58-16-amOver the years, it has been common for Mayor Ronnie to be enthralled with a book, share it with me, let it inspire me, and the result has been a series of articles on any number of topics for this column. I for one am a citizen that is glad that we have a voracious reader for a mayor, and one who is determined to be a lifelong learner. However, I don’t think I have ever seen him as excited as he was the day he received by surprise an autographed copy of a book entitled The Awakening of H.K. Derryberry: My Unlikely Friendship With The Boy Who Remembers Everything. It is written by Athens High School graduate Jimmy Bradford, and I hope it becomes as much of a classic as The Miracle Worker, or Radio.

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Jimmy and Ronnie have known each other for over 50 years, and a few years ago, through their friendship, Ronnie became aware of the young man simply named “H.K.” The child was born blind, has cerebral palsy, is paralyzed on one side, and has been diagnosed as being one of six people on earth to have what is known as HSAM, or Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. In a word, H.K. remembers everything. It is as though his mind is a security camera that never runs out of tape and goes on forever. He just “backs it up,” and tells you with precision what happened, and the amount of time elapsed since the event is of no consequence. Through a series of what can only be fairly described as providential events, H.K. and Jim became friends when H.K. was nine years old. He is now in his mid-20s, has gone on to become a highly successful speaker, and has spoken here in Athens at Central Church of Christ on more than one occasion.

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Mayor Ronnie has a treasure, and it is a letter he received from H.K., written in Braille by the use of H.K.’s one good hand. Most of the time it is visible in Ronnie’s office, and it reminds him that with God’s help and determination, disabilities can be turned into strengths.

“I invited him here a couple of years ago,” said the mayor, “and made him Mayor for a Day. He sat in my chair and decided that he would make sure that all the ladies who worked at City Hall would get a raise.” We both laughed. While Mayor Ronnie worked on the budget, I read the first 25 pages of the book, and I am hooked. Here is how Jimmy Bradford describes his first encounter with H.K: “Like a pick-pocket honing his stealthy craft among the gawking tourists of Nashville’s down-town honky-tonks, H.K. Derryberry had committed the perfect crime: he stole my heart.”

Former Alabama coach Gene Stallings calls it a “must read.” Country music legend Allen Jackson’s endorsement on the back cover says, “This heart-warming story will change you for good.” H.K. and Jimmy changed each other for good, that’s for sure, and the ripple effect is far-reaching. H.K. has gone on to graduate from school, is the only known Braille user who can navigate the system with just one hand, and has no sense of being limited. Mayor Ronnie and I talked for quite a while about what a blessing the book and the lives of these two are for Athens, and then we prayed, for it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

9-2-2016 2-53-43 PMIt had been another whirlwind week and weekend for the Mayor. On Saturday, he had been to several events, all of which were important, and the fact that there is more good stuff going on than he could ever possibly attend is proof positive that Athens is indeed a blessed town.

We talked about the fact that we are coming up on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and how that day changed everything forever for the United States of America. “There are ways I think we are more vulnerable today than we were then,” he said, and I agree. We are in the middle of the most vicious election cycle that either of us has ever remembered, and it appears that either way it goes, we are going to be polarized. It is going to be the job of whomever is elected to re-forge a genuine unity, and while that may not be possible on a national scale any time soon, there is proof that it is definitely occurring in our fair city.

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On Saturday, August 27th, Athenians of every color came together for an event called “Unity in the Community.” It was organized by Jan Matthews, and featured as the keynote a Christian hip hop artist by the name of Canton Jones out of Atlanta.

Mr. Jones’ message was as refreshing as it was timeless, and the Mayor said the music was powerful. Mayor Ronnie stood at the back of the room and took it all in as a private citizen rather than an attending public official, soaking up every word. Canton’s message was simple: take responsibility for your own actions, forgive no matter what has been done to you, and get up and do something to make the world around you a better place to live.

I thought about the huge difference it makes when you are motivated to change things out of forgiveness rather than grievance. It’s not that grievances don’t occur; we are indeed promised that offenses will come, but a state of permanent grievance pales in power to accomplish anything when compared to the power of forgiveness. We took a few minutes to go to www.cantonjones.net and see his 5-minute video on forgiveness.

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Canton made a long list of offenses that had been committed against him, and it was detailed. He then realized that the chances of anyone coming to him to repent were getting slimmer by the day, so he just decided to forgive, because the burden of unforgiveness was too great to bear, and it made him dependent upon others for his worth. Then he decided to forgive himself, which wasn’t so easy, either. He tore up his list and decided to walk in his purpose.

At the end of Canton’s message, he invited people up to the front of the Limestone County Event Center to what was essentially an altar call, with one of the purposes being to cross a specific line in the sand: choosing to do everything possible to build unity in the community. Mayor Ronnie said that at least 100 people, including himself, went forward, and it was moving. “It starts with each one, and needs to be everyone,” he said.

We then marveled that the Mayor’s Youth Commission is now going to begin its 5th year. “Some of those kids from the first years have graduated from college,” he said, and he still hears from them. He likes to think that the MYC is involved in “making butterflies.” He talked about how churches, service groups and businesses have come together in a way that was not seen when he was a boy here, and all of it to build Athens.

So, we spent a good part of our prayer time thanking God for what he has done, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-19-2016 9-43-46 AMIt is the beginning of the school year, and it is another opportunity for teachers, students, parents, grandparents, friends and businesses to “build our blueberries.” What in the world does that mean? The title of this edition of Ronnie comes from a story known as “the blueberry story” told in a book entitled, Schools Cannot Do It Alone, by Jamie Vollmer. The subtitle is Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools. I sat for a few minutes in the Mayor’s office and read it.

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The “blueberry story” is a humbling tale told by Mr. Vollmer, wherein he endeavored to simplistically suggest to a group of teachers that adopting a standard business model for today’s schools is the answer to all their “production” problems. By way of context, Mr. Vollmer produces ice cream, and a teacher challenged him for using the analogy of the quality of blueberries shipped to the ice cream factory that ultimately will go into Mr. Vollmer’s product. The exchange went something like this:

“Mr. Vollmer, when….you see…those blueberries do not meet your triple A standards, what do you do?”

“I send them back.”

“That’s right! You send them back. We can never send back the blueberries our suppliers send us. We take them big, small, rich, poor, hungry, abused, confident, curious, homeless, frightened, rude, creative, violent, and brilliant. We take them of every race, religion, and ethnic background. We take them with head lice, ADHD, and advanced asthma. We take them with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, English as their second language, and who knows how much lead in their veins. We take them all, Mr. Vollmer! Every one! And that’s why it’s not a business. It’s school.”

To his credit, Jamie Vollmer has learned much since that exchange, and Ronnie has heard him speak. He has also spoken with Jamie briefly, and highly recommends the book for anyone in the private sector who wants to be a “triple A blueberry builder.”

After I read the “blueberry story,” Mayor Ronnie said, “Here’s what we have. On one hand, there is a kid named Ryan who got a 35 on his ACT and would have liked to have done better, and on the other, we have kids for whom school is the best part of the day. So the question is, ‘How do we build our blueberries?’”

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We discussed the fact that from some quarters, teachers are being asked to be the parents, provide apprenticeships, and essentially function as the cook, the counselor, and the coach. They are spread thin, and, as the book title reiterates, “Schools can’t do it alone.” We need to “build our blueberries” if we want to leave our town in good shape after we are long gone.

We talked some about the role of businesses as Partners in Education, and he said, “I am so glad they are involved.” However, what he wanted to convey the most is “how much we appreciate our teachers.” He has been in the classroom, and so have I, but it was a long time ago, and it was not with the kinds of challenges our teachers are facing today.

“I am especially thankful for the role the Dr. Sisk and Dr. Holladay and the School Boards have had with the new Career Technical Center,” he said. “They are creating an atmosphere for success.” He also talked about the fact that the year was fresh, and the students are excited. “I feel good about our schools,” he said.

We both know that there is always room to improve them, and to that end we prayed. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-5-2016 11-58-44 AMIf you were at Jimmy Gill Park on Saturday, July 30th, you would know that the answer is a resounding yes! That is, as long as there are other things going on behind the scenes for the purpose of bringing the community together in strength. The Mayor, Raven Warner, who is on the Mayor’s Youth Commission, and who is just finishing up her summer working at the new City Hall, and I sat in his office while it was raining “cats and bats” outside. We talked about the summer, everything from the windows getting broken at Trinity, to the Youth Commission donating money from the Dekko Foundation for window repair, to Youth Commission plans for next year, as well as celebrating the success of the NAACP Limestone Youth Council Community Unity/ Leadership Day event. Both Ronnie and Raven had participated, and their smiles as well as enthusiasm spoke volumes.

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“Four to five years ago we didn’t have anything like the Youth groups, let alone an all day event,” Ronnie said. “Training up leaders was something that was pretty much done in churches, which is good, and now we have several community organizations stepping up to do the job, too. We have ours, the Chamber of Commerce has one, and there are others.” He waxed philosophical for a moment. “We change America right here,” he said, as he pointed to the table where the three of us were sitting. “We go to church, talk a good game about being Christian, and we go back the next week and we keep talking about it, but it is in the community that it happens. The worst thing we can do is stop talking, and not do anything.”

Raven listened politely, and like most teens these days, multi-tasked by listening to him while looking for a video on her phone that captured what happened in Jimmy Gill Park. It is from that video that the still shot shown here as an illustration was taken. It showed police men in uniform, black folks, white folks, and kids all line dancing together during the festivities. As my father used to say, “They were cutting a rug.” Raven said, “The whole community was together, something you don’t usually see.” She was elsewhere on the site and didn’t get a chance to participate, but felt that it was the best part of the day. There were other good things as well. Raven worked a booth where school supplies were being donated and dropped off. There was a booth where people could register to vote. There was a place where you could get your photo ID taken, and one of Raven’s favorite things that happened was that an elderly woman in a wheelchair got her ID card. Raven also made a new friend named Jordan, who had just moved here. Raven plays sax, and it looks like Jordan is going to join her this fall as part of the Athens High School Band.

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The police were there for the day, as were firemen and other first responders. There were presentations on health and nutrition, representatives from Athens and Limestone Schools were present, and more. They had to call it early due to the rain, but no one’s spirits were dampened. I had Raven imagine for a bit what she would do if she were Mayor and had every resource at her disposal. She talked about bringing in more things for kids to do so they didn’t have to go to Madison. “It would cost a lot of money, I know,” she said shyly. She added that she would like to see all community music related events for kids. She then headed back up to her post in the front office of City Hall.

Mayor Ronnie came back into his office, and finished up our time by saying, “We gotta keep doing things like this. It’s just too important.” As we always do, we prayed for our town, and then it was time for Ronnie, and me, to roll on out into the much needed downpour that was deluging the marvelous city of Athens, Alabama.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-16-2016 10-24-48 AMWe met a week ago—not in our usual time slot– and it was the morning after the horrific assassinations of police officers in Dallas. What could we say? Of course the Mayor’s attention was focused on our own community, both the citizens and those who protect them, and as many times as we have talked about public safety in past “Ronnies”, it was abundantly clear that what had just happened in Dallas “raised the bar to a new low-ness.” We were pretty much stunned. I let him know that I planned on interviewing Chief Johnson, (see Publisher’s Point on page 3) and writing about our city’s determination to respond rather than react.

We met in the board room due to the fact that the street repair project outside his office on Hobbs was nearly loud enough to keep one from hearing one’s own thinking, and with his trademark Marks Mayoral humor, he looked at me as he poured us coffee and said, “Did you know that people complain when there are potholes to be filled, and people complain when we fill them?” I laughed.
Certainly our nation had been dealt a blow, and thankfully our city works diligently on all fronts to prevent the same kind of thing from happening here. However, there are no guarantees, other than the firm conviction that good is stronger than evil, and ultimately good will triumph, if we just bother to apply it.

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But then, he asked, “Have you heard what the kids have done?” For a moment I tensed up, because I was concerned that there had been more vandalism at Pincham-Lincoln or elsewhere. “No sir,” I said. “They have decided to donate money to getting the windows repaired,” he said. I lit up with a smile, and waited for him to tell me more. He explained that the students from this past school year’s Mayor’s Youth Commission had decided to keep $500 in a fund in order to meet possible needs of incoming students who would join the Commission in the fall. Upon hearing about Trinity being essentially attacked, they were outraged, and expressed their dismay in a letter that was published in the News-Courier. I had never thought about this before, but it hurt them to think that other people in the community would possibly lump them into the despicable designation of being “kids these days” by virtue of the fact that they were teen agers, and not because of who they were as people.

It seems we have a lot of that going on in our culture, i.e., judging people by label rather than their lives, but in the case of the youth of Athens, Alabama, they fought back with sweetness that manifested itself in financial sacrifice.

Mayor Ronnie asked me if I could go to Trinity the same morning at 10 for an impromptu ceremony where representatives from the Youth Commission would present a check to representatives from the Athens Limestone Community Association. The ALCA has been the energy behind rebuilding Trinity/Pincham-Lincoln/Ft. Henderson. Others in attendance included the Mayor, Chief Johnson, and people who just loved Athens and wanted to help. The check was to go toward fulfilling the insurance deductible so the replacement of the windows could be expedited. I changed some things in my schedule, went to the presentation, and had the privilege of taking the picture of the event.

So, what was the sweetness? It was the attitude of the kids, and how they stepped up. It was the people who refused to be turned back from re-building Trinity. It was the watchful eye of our Mayor and our Police Chief; it was getting to pray and sing with Carolyn Williams as we stood in the kitchen of the room which had been dedicated to the late Jimmy Gill, and watched out for broken glass. It was being a part of a community in a state of discomfort that was being converted into something strong and good. And then, it was time for Ronnie, and the rest of us, to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-1-2016 3-09-08 PMFor the July 1st Ronnie column, the Mayor set up a meeting with Dr. Tom Sisk, who heads up the Limestone County schools. We met in Dr. Sisk’s office, and were treated to a preview of a new video that has been produced to promote the Career Technical Center. Honestly, the production was so good, that it made me wish I was back in high school and could enroll in not just one, but many of their programs, and Mayor Marks was equally enthusiastic.

Mayor Ronnie happened to notice that Dr. Sisk had a copy of The Little Engine That Could on the credenza in the office, and, as the man who dons his own Dr. Seuss hat to read Horton Hears A Who to primary school kids, Mayor Marks jumped up, whipped out his phone, took a picture of the book cover, and requested that we use it to illustrate this edition’s column.

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“You know,” he said, as he returned back to the conference table, “This perfectly illustrates what is happening at the Career Technical Center.” Dr. Sisk smiled, and the two of them concluded, “Limestone County Career Technical Center is not the Little Engine That Could, it is the Little Engine That Will.” I added that it could also be referred to as The Little Engine That Does.

So, why is what is going on at CTC so special? It is what has been made available to the kids, and the way it was developed, improved, and upgraded. Dr. Sisk went to “the captains of industry” in our area and beyond, and asked, “What do you need from our kids?” They responded with a number of things that went way beyond competency and literacy, but also included attitudes, general ethics, and work habits. There are now 23 career paths that can be taken, with two more in the offing, and which will be unveiled in October. They range in scope from health science to fire fighting to computer assisted design to robotics to culinary arts to auto and diesel mechanic certification.

“Certified diesel mechanics were one of the biggest needs that local industry leaders told us they needed,” said Dr. Tom. Another thing I found impressive about the promotional video as well as the literature that Dr. Tom asked me to take with him was that industry leaders indicated what they were willing to pay these kids when they graduated. This ranged from entry level positions to what they could expect if they made their chosen field a permanent one, and let’s just say, it’s more than I make!! Right now the CTC is undergoing extensive remodeling and renovation, and with over 500 students graduating this past spring, it is forecast that next year there will be 1,000.

Mayor Marks and Dr. Sisk are also very glad that the former stigma that was long attached to a “voc-tech” track as being for “just blue collar workers” is fading away at warp speed, and thankfully so. No longer does anyone feel that the only people who are truly educated are those who have finished university, and the CTC is living proof of that.

Mayor Marks finished our time by telling Dr. Sisk that he “had never seen the energy level in this office as high as it is,” and he thanked “Doc” for all his hard work. Then, as is always the case, it was time for Ronnie, and this time, Tom, to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

6-18-2016 12-14-31 PMWhen I met with Mayor Ronnie this week, the murders in Orlando had happened the day before, and we were both sobered by it. We talked about all the possibilities, reasonable and otherwise, that one might consider as a response to that situation in Orlando; everything from open carry, to stricter gun laws, to jihad, to ISIS, to concealed carry, to the encroachment of Sharia law upon our nation, as well the temptation of anyone in any position to surrender to fear, which is the whole point of jihad. For every mayor, whether their city is large or small, their number one concern is public safety, and these are not easy times for anyone who has been given the sacred charge of protecting.

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We talked about the fact that the most important thing that people can do is learn to live confidently in a state of situational awareness. It simply means that even in a place as safe as Athens, day or night, the skill, the gut, the mindset has to be that wherever you are, you continually pay attention to your surroundings, and if you see something, say something. You do not take unnecessary risks, and you do all you can to be citizen who “keeps watch, and keeps safe.”

We talked about leadership, as well as a concept set forth in a recent Rotarian magazine entitled, “Best In A Supporting Role.” That concept calls for the coining of a new term, and that is “followership.” The idea is that we spend so much time learning about how to be a good leader, and we should. But there is an equal, and perhaps even greater, level of skill involved in being a good follower. It is not being like a sheep, having no opinion, being a “yes man,” a slave, or a sycophant. It is developing the understanding that you still lead by following if you do it right. You are the one who ultimately makes the desired outcome possible, and really, in so many ways, leadership and followership “flow and go,” and are interchangeable.

To quote the article’s author, Steve Almond, “The hallmarks of the effective follower are precisely this: an ability to check your ego at the door, to remain positive and self-motivated even if you’re not setting the agenda.” True leadership demands a checking of one’s ego, and so does true followership.

There was something in the article that especially spoke to Mayor Ronnie, and it was this: “Good followers have to be committed to the mission of the group, and they have to be competent in their given role…Good followers have to be able to work independently and maintain their ethical standards.”

“We need, now more than ever, to be committed to the ‘mission’ that is Athens. We are in an election season, and we have great opportunities to get in new leaders in new positions.” He went on to reiterate his mantra, which is, “It ain’t-a me, it’s a we.”

We then prayed intensely for our town and its mission, for our country and its leaders, for our families and our friends. Then, it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner