Mayor 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.
“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.”
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