6-6-2016 12-53-47 PMWe met a day late, due to the Memorial Day Weekend. We both attended the fine program put on by the Vets’ Museum which was held at the Limestone County Event Center, complete with an address by Lt. General David Mann, a 21 gun salute, and the playing of Taps. “It was the biggest crowd we have ever had,” he said, and we were both glad we were there. The flags of the US and the State of Alabama had been appropriately flown at half-staff at City Hall, as well as throughout our area, and the flags displayed along Hwy 31 made us both proud of our town for making Memorial Day about more than kicking off the summer cook-out and vacation season.

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He told me about the thrill he personally felt regarding various accomplishments by local students, from the awarding of a $180,000 scholarship to the Naval Academy to a graduating senior from Athens High School, to a 9th grader successfully negotiating with DEKKO to get the full $67,000 requested in a grant proposal she had helped craft. DEKKO had counter offered with $20,000, and as a result of all she had learned as a budding entrepreneur, she had the full requested amount in five minutes!

He told me about a move to get more teachers certified to teach AP (Advance Placement) classes, because we have more public high school students who qualify for college level work in a number of subjects than we have teachers to teach them. Mayor Ronnie also mentioned that on July 23rd, there will be a Senior Fun Day held at the Senior Center. There will be a “day at the beach” theme, with skits, karaoke, therapy dogs, and food. He was especially glad that the event would be local, rather than have to send our celebrating seniors elsewhere.

He moved on to other things that had particularly inspired him over the weekend, and what stood out the most was a sermon preached on Sunday morning re: “Distractions.” He essentially preached it again to me, and as they say, “we had church.” The topic was the many forms of distraction that rob us of our purpose on this earth. The most obvious are all the opportunities we have to get distracted through tweeting, Facebooking, emailing, texting, binge watching, phone calls, and procrastinating ad nauseam, but he told me that realizing that fear can be a distraction was something that really got his attention.

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“I’m not talking about ‘ISIS’ kind of fear; that’s legitimate,” he said, “I am talking about the distracting, internal fear that shuts down your dreams. For a recent high school graduate, if you are not dreaming big enough to be a bit nervous, you’re not dreaming big enough.” I thought to myself, “I graduated from high school 45 years ago, and I still allow myself to get distracted and not dream big enough. I need to pay attention, here.”

He went on. “There is a fear to fight through until you reach your goal, and fear that is clean. Clean fear will make you choose the right people to be around, who share your dreams and values with so you don’t get pulled down and pulled away.” He added, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help; that’s a distracting fear, and one of the ways to fight fear is to give to others. It gets your focus off yourself.”

We could have stayed all day, but he finished his sermon with “Don’t be ‘feared’ into not dreaming, and not holding to your faith.” We then prayed, and it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

5-20-2016 2-52-38 PMEarlier this week, Mayor Ronnie and several City Hall staff members had the opportunity to attend the annual Alabama League of Municipalities conference, and this year it was held in Huntsville. As a bit of background, there are 460 towns and cities in our state, and 449 of them belong to the League. Over 900 people were present, and there were exhibits, breakout sessions, superb speeches, and even a guy who did an impersonation of Barney Fife.

Mayor Ronnie is almost always “fired up” when he comes in for our interviews, but today he was positively soaring. One of the best speakers from the conference was a fellow by the name of Jim Hunt, who is with the National League of Municipalities. Jim is going to be coming out with a book soon, and I do believe what Mr. Hunt has to say, and how it has inspired our Mayor, will end up being a rich series.

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Mr. Hunt gave a presentation which served in part as the title of this Ronnie. He talked about making sure your city had ZING! What is ZING? It is all the “astonishing, striking, surprising, brilliant, stunning, impressive, overwhelming, staggering, sensational” things that can be used by visitors and residents alike to describe your city. We have so many, but one honor that was granted to Athens this year is that we are #1 in all of Alabama for industrial recruitment. That is especially encouraging when we are surrounded by the exact opposite elsewhere.

The League of Municipalities serves as a support system for cities and towns so that they might become their best “selves.” They do so in a number of ways. “They have an excellent legal staff that is available to us all the time,” said Mayor Ronnie. They also have a similar staff that helps with the ins and outs of finance and regulations. Ronnie also said that he was grateful for the legal and financial staff that we have right here serving the City of Athens. There is also an outstanding League staff down in Montgomery that has been of help to us. Our Mayor serves on several League committees, and has been asked once again to serve this year. They include the executive, legislative, and finance committees, and it’s something he enjoys greatly. “During the year, we come up with proposals to make legislative statements,” he said, and is experience in Montgomery years ago has been most helpful.

One of the roles of the League is to function as a watchdog with regard to Federal and State programs, mandates and programs, whether good or bad, and to “get the word out” to League members so they can protect and/or strengthen their respective towns and cities, and respond well to what comes down the pike.

Another League role is to give top notch leadership training to city employees so they can be better at running the city. The League sponsored opportunities at the conference to make PSAs, or Public Service Announcements. Mayor Ronnie did one on texting and driving, and another on bullying. Those will be aired soon, so watch for social media and the Communications Office to announce the venue and broadcast times.

What else “brings the ZING?” “Attitude,” he told me as he showed me the slide that gave a simple command: “Focus on your city’s potential instead of its limitations.” I especially liked the use of the word “limitations” as opposed to “problems.” Even that is a more positive way of approaching what can be done to empower neighborhoods to bring their own ZING, to cause light to triumph over darkness.

Mr. Hunt also asked a powerful question, actually, two of them: What is your brand? What do you want people to remember? Our brand is Classic. Southern. Character. We possess all three in abundance, and speaking for self as someone who has only been here for 16 years, we also exude life and all its possibilities. I love Athens so deeply because it is Ama-ZING, and I want people to remember our history and all the progress we have made on so many fronts. There’s much to do, and much that has been done.

Our time “zinged” by, and was over. Mayor Ronnie’s heart was full, we made our next appointment, we prayed, and then, once again it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

5-6-2016 10-43-14 AMWednesday, May 04, 2016, the staff of City Hall and all the Departments that are going to “live” there began the process of invading the newly completed City Hall, and wrestling with the “giants” that always come out of hiding while in the process of moving. Some staff members had begun to move in stages last week, and it will take awhile for the “punch list” to be completed. There is a window here that has a streak, some tile there that needs to be straightened, a staffer that was locked out of their office, landscaping to be finished, and organization to be completed, but the move is going smoothly. Bottom line, the place is going to be a real blessing for the citizens of Athens, and will beautify our already beautiful city.

We sat at a small conference table in the Mayor’s office that had boxes and other proofs of the task at hand covering part of it. “Wow, what a wonderful weekend we had,” said Mayor Ronnie, and it was true. On Friday night the weather was fixin’ to misbehave, and Singing on the Square was moved to the Limestone County Event Center. It was a solid success. One of the performers was West Limestone’s Lillian Glanton, who had competed in Hollywood during the 2016 (and last) season of American Idol. She was accompanied by the Elk River Boys. Also appearing were Wade Oliver and the Good O Boys.

On Saturday, our town was hoppin’. Cars and Bikes on the Square brought hundreds of visitors, and over 700 cars, trucks, hot rods, classics, antiques, and restored vehicles were parked all around the Square. Previously I had gotten to sit in a 1955 Porsche convertible that made me feel like Grace Kelly. Tom Schuman and so many more worked hard to bring a great event to Athens.

For the second year in a row, Friendship Methodist Church hosted the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful Earth Day celebration, due largely to the fact that the event has outgrown Big Spring Park. Lynne Hart, director of KALB, estimates that at least 1200 people attended, and I think she’s right. Rachel Clark and I had a Juice Plus Tower Garden demo table, and I lost track of the people who stopped by our table. There were demonstrations, drawings, the most beautiful owl I have ever seen, animals to pet, food, Jim Swanner and his horse, Rosie, homemade soaps, Girl Scouts, essential oils, and more. As always, there was a huge crew of volunteers who happily made it all happen, because they want to be good stewards of what we have been given.

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“There is a group that doesn’t get enough mention for the hard work they do,” said Mayor Ronnie, “and that’s the Beautification Board.” He went on to tell me that they are the ones responsible for all the flower and plant containers around the Square. “They do a wonderful job,” he said. He had gone to thank Myrna Burgreen and Wanda Hightower as they were switching out the spring flowers and planting the lantana for summer. “The lantana oftentimes lasts all the way through the Storytelling Festival,” he said. He also mentioned how the youth from T.R.A.I.L. do litter patrol around the Square and keep it clean. “Anybody how knows me knows I hate litter,” the Mayor said with a laugh, and I am right there with him.

Lastly, we talked about the fact that in addition to all the good and beautiful things that happened this weekend, one of his less pleasant jobs was stopping by El Mercadito on Jefferson, to visit the owners after the place had been hit by lightning, and badly damaged. It is going to be a tough row to hoe for them to rebuild, and they were the first we prayed for. We also took time to thank God for all that makes Athens continually beautiful, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

4-15-2016 5-16-18 PMRecently the Alabama Fire College training trailer was at Leak City, and in the pouring rain, the Mayor, Holly Hollman, acting Athens Fire Chief Brian Thornton, AFD Driver Ryan Kiser, and some other members of our “fierce fire-fighting force” congregated around and in the soot-lined trailer. Mayor Marks had wanted me to see some of what our FD guys go through to learn to protect us well.
I was the only one who had never been in it, and got a personal tour. “Don’t touch anything,” Ryan said, not that I could break anything, but if I had, I would have emerged looking like a chimneysweep. The trailer is two-story, and has rooms that can simulate a kitchen fire, a second floor fire, and the most dangerous, a basement fire. “It can get up to 800 degrees in here,” he said. He showed me how high the flames could shoot, and explained that the reason a basement fire is the most dangerous is because there is only one way in or out.

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Back under the cover of the breezeway, and out of the rain, I learned even more from Brian Thornton. “Firefighting has become a science, and things have changed greatly since the ‘70s. When I got started, we would go practice on a condemned house, but those days are over,” he said. “This way, we can better protect our firefighters while they are in training. Back in the day, some guys lost their lives during the training process,” he added. There are new guidelines for live fire training, with more built-in safety measures. With the use of the controlled fires started in the trailer, they can kill the flames quickly, with a dead man switch, if need be.

4-15-2016 5-16-47 PM“Things have also changed a lot in the last 5 years because of the way houses are being constructed now, which is also very different from the ‘70s,” he said. I replied, “How so?” “Fires are hotter and faster. It used to be that a house could flash (become engulfed) in 5 minutes. Now it only takes a minute.” He explained that this has to do with the combination of more metals and plastics used, “and they (houses) are just lighter.” The idea is akin to the flash caused by tinder when you are building a campfire. Its purpose is to flame up quickly, with the purpose of igniting larger pieces of wood.

Ryan is the one who operates the trailer, and he travels all over Alabama with it when the need for training arises. He has been fighting fires since 2001, and has been a part of our force here in Athens for five years. He is what is known as a “Grade 8 Driver,” which in and of itself is a dangerous job, getting a fire service vehicle through traffic and to the fire quickly without causing an accident in the process. He also operates the pump and aerial, and knows everything about every aspect of what comes out of a fire hose.

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As a side note, more than 26,000 students have graduated from Alabama Fire College, and they have come from 48 states as well as 6 foreign countries. Our mayor is understandably proud of the Athens Fire Department and the positive impact they are having in the U.S. and abroad. “As we have talked about many times,” he said, “public safety is the number one concern for any city, and any mayor. We want our firefighters to know how much we appreciate them.” It was time again for us to go back out into the rain, and “roll” on to what was next in our day, but not before he reminded me that there will be a dinner on June 3rd to honor “our fierce firefighters.” For more information, go to the Together We Stand Facebook page.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

4-1-2016 12-15-31 PMJimmy Gill was the type of man who grew vegetables and shared them with friends, told funny stories about his dog Roscoe, and would dress as a pirate for a good cause.

He was also the kind of man for whom community service meant serving his city in various roles from city council to interim mayor to volunteer.

Today, March 27, 2016, on Easter Sunday, Gill died from his second battle with cancer.

Gill, who turned 68 on March 21, was first elected to the City County in 1992, and was one of the longest serving city council members in the state.

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“Today we lost a good servant for the City of Athens and a good friend,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “Jimmy is going to be missed by all of us, but he would challenge us to keep moving forward and to find a good person to fill his role to keep the work going.”

During his tenure on the Athens City Council, there were two projects special to Gill that he was determined to see to fruition: the renovation and preservation of Fort Henderson/Trinity School and a park for citizens living south of U.S. 72.

Union soldiers, including runaway slaves, built Fort Henderson during the Civil War, and Trinity School operated for black students after the war until integration in 1970. Gill was a 1966 graduate of Trinity School. The Pincham-Lincoln Community Center now is in operation at the Trinity site with plans to turn the school’s band room into a museum chronicling the story of slave to soldier to student.

There was no park in the city south of U.S. 72 until 2008, when the Jimmy Gill Park opened to serve citizens in that area.

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“When I was a reporter for The Decatur Daily, Jimmy wanted me to see the story, not just hear about an issue at a council meeting,” said Holly Hollman, who is now the grant coordinator/communications specialist for the City of Athens. “He took me to walk the crumbled halls of Trinity School when dead leaves and discarded school books littered the floors. He took me to speak to residents with limited transportation who wanted a recreational facility near them for their children. His service to Athens and its citizens was a priority in his life.”

Gill served various times as president of the Athens City Council, and in that role served as interim mayor in 2006 when the late Dan Williams was out for surgery. He was also involved in the following:

• Served on both the City of Athens Relay for Life Team and his church’s Relay Team at Oak Grove-CME Church

• Participated in the City of Athens Relay for Life Team’s Celebrity Waiter’s Night fundraiser (He raised the most in tips the past three years.) This is one of his favorite fundraisers.

• Served on TARCOG (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments)

• Served on the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee, which provides community events such as the LBF Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Toy/Bicycle Give-Away at Christmas and the Martin Luther king Jr. Holiday Celebration.

• Served on the Solid Waste Authority

• Served on one of the committees for Alabama League of Municipalities

• Participated in Poke Sallet Follies to benefit the Limestone County Foundation for Aging. He participated every year except the first year in 1992 and this year because of his health. He had roles as a pirate, baby, triplet and many other crazy characters.

• Involved in organizing the Trinity Class of 1966’s Bi-Annual Trinity Grand Reunion.

• Served on the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame Board

• Served on the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Board

Gill is survived by his wife Deborah Gill and four children. He worked at GM/Delphi where he retired after 29 years and earned the nickname “Huggy Bear.” He was active in his congregation at Oak Grove CME Church.
By: Holly Hollman
Funeral arrangements have not been completed.*
*Funeral arrangements can be found in Publisher’s Point on page 3.

3-18-2016 11-06-36 AMAnother year of the highly successful Mayor’s Youth Commission is just about finished, and this spring the members have had a chance to learn to deal with money in a way that truly benefits worthy causes, as well as navigate the process of project selection, execution, and accountability. “In a way,” said Mayor Marks, “they are learning what it is like to be on City Council.” The kids “came into” a sum of $3500, which was sent to the Commission by the Dekko Foundation as part of their 35th anniversary celebration. Dekko’s mission is to “foster economic freedom through education,” and is highly vested in preparing students for the future.

The kids decided to give away $3,000 and keep $500 for the Commission. They came up with a protocol for which kind of entities would receive the designated grants, and two of the requirements were that they were a genuine non-profit, and that it could be demonstrably shown that the grant would be a benefit to Athens. They advertised, and received a number of responses. The grant applications were graded on how well the desired project was planned, and how well the grant application was worded. In addition, the kids did the leg work with regard to securing proof of an organization’s non-profit status.

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Some of the contenders were Relay for Life, Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful, the Animal Shelter, Camp Hope, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the Girl Scouts, Hospice of Limestone County, the Athens Art League, and others.

The students met at Leak City on March 16th for their final meeting with regard to the Dekko grant, and the awardees were: Camp Hope, Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful, Athens Arts League, Boys and Girls Club, MTM Corporation, and Girl Scouts Service Unit 210.

After they concluded their business, (which almost always occurs over pizza), they were on to their next learning experience. Athens Fire and Rescue invited them to watch MES (Municipal Emergency Services) extrication training at Leak City on Sanderfer Road. The training is for firefighters from Athens Fire and Rescue, and Clements Volunteer Fire Dept. In addition, 72 Automotive donated vehicles for the exercise. They even got to handle the extraction equipment, and everyone received an “up close and personal” reason to quit texting and driving, which is one of the biggest causes of death amongst teens.

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We talked about what it was like to consider that another graduating class was nearly upon us, and that it was basically only 60 days until these guys were cut loose to be on their own and find their way. I for one am glad that the Mayor, Holly Hollman, and others have taken the time to train the next generation. Someday, they’ll be making all the decisions, and we are going to need every bit of wisdom that has been put in them.

He told me that there are a couple of students in the Commission that are heading toward their Eagle Scout badge, and for at least one of their projects, they saw to it that all the current playground equipment at the Sportsplex was pressure washed. In addition, they are helping to get the “All Kids” equipment ready to rock and roll. The All Kids playground equipment is especially designed for disabled children, and can even make a way for kids in wheelchairs to be able to swing on swings in the park.

There is a certain look of joy that the Mayor gets on his face when he talks about “his kids,” and I could tell that all of the “blood, sweat, and tears” from this year had paid off as he told me their stories. He had to get to another meeting, so we prayed, and then, it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

3-5-2016 10-08-21 AMMayor Ronnie wears many hats, and sometimes that means literally. Every year, he dons his borrowed Dr. Seuss hat and spends time reading to various pre-school and elementary classrooms throughout Athens during Dr. Seuss Week. We talked about our favorites from the Seuss collection, including Horton Hears A Who, and Bartholomew And The Oobleck. However, this year, he chose a title of which I had never heard, and it was, Because A Little Bug Went Ka-choo! It was written in 1975, when Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), was 71, and for this book he used the pen name Rosetta Stone.

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The story is about chain reactions and the law of unintended consequences. It is also a great cautionary tale about what happens when you don’t manage your emotions, as illustrated by a worm who gets mad about getting bonked on the head and goes and kicks a tree. No Mayor likes to be stumped by questions, and Mayor Ronnie found himself almost coming up short when one of the kids asked, “How did the worm kick the tree? He doesn’t have any feet.” His reply? “He was a very special worm.” Later, he asked the kids, “What does the Mayor do? What’s his job?” Their answer? “He reads to kids.” Would that his job was so simple! We both laughed as he told me of the morning’s adventures.

Contrast wearing a striped hat and reading to kids with going to New York City to talk to people in the world of high finance. He traveled with Councilmen Chris Seibert and Joe Cannon to present the complexities of our various projects and debt service to firms on Wall Street. He was just back from the whirlwind trip, and felt that the presentation made to Standard and Poors and Moody went very well. He showed me a number of the slides that comprised the presentation, and I learned that housing prices have been steadily rising since 2008, and unemployment has been steadily declining. “We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the State,” he said.

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Anyone who knows our Mayor knows that one of his pet peeves is litter, and recently the City hired work release inmates to clean up the area from the east side of Walmart down the bank to Hwy 31. “They picked up 80 bags of trash,” he said with incredulity, and added, “Quit trashing our town!”

Spring cleaning for the City of Athens always has a literal end game; or, perhaps it would be better to describe it as an opening one since Opening Day for baseball, softball, and soccer will soon be here. One of the things that impressed the New Yorkers was the great increase in the number of kids that are participating in the Parks and Recreation teams. It most definitely speaks to the quality of life here in Athens, both for the kids and the adults who support them.

It was then time for Dr. Seuss, er, the Mayor to head out, but not before we prayed. Several people in our city have been sick, have been injured, or are fighting cancer, and we lifted them up to the One who loves them most. The kids at Piney Chapel Elementary were waiting to hear about the “very special worm,” and Ronnie needed to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2-19-2016 11-41-51 AMOften times, Mayor Ronnie has come in so full from the weekend that it’s hard to confine all that is inspiring him to around 500 words. Sometimes there are tough things going on, and they need to be talked about, prayed about, and printed. This particular day it was both.

“We are coming up on storm season,” he said, “and people need to be prepared.” Of course, preparation is always a relative thing, and yet, it still is puzzling as to how so many people seem to just ignore storm season, and hope it will completely bypass them. I imagine we will address it again at length, but for the abbreviated imperative statement in this particular Ronnie, it’s time to buy your batteries, be able to reach your flashlight by Braille, purchase your water, and review your storm plan with your family. “Be alert,” were his two words on the subject. ‘Nuff said.

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Tough stuff: Public safety issues. We have talked many times over the years about mental health, something that we have both dealt with in our careers, and with which I have had to grapple personally with in regard to more than one family member. Outside of faith, sometimes the answers just don’t seem to be readily available, and for a public official, that is as humbling as it is frustrating. When ill mental health threatens the welfare of others, it is one of the worst situations imaginable, as we have recently seen in Florence and Athens.

Anyone, whether a first responder, a parent, a teacher, or a public official, knows that mental ill health is “equal opportunity” when it comes to its devastating effects on everyone. “Mental illness knows no gender, race, or age,” he said as he sighed, and I nodded as we were quiet for awhile. When we prayed, we prayed for every person in our area who struggles with it, their families, and everyone who has to make any kind of a decision with regard to dealing with it from the standpoint of public safety. May God grant wisdom and relief to all, especially the sufferers and their families.

Spring: “There is so much good stuff going on in our community that I almost don’t know where to start,” he said. Per usual, he always worries that he is leaving somebody out. The Boy Scouts are honored to have Coach Bruce Pearl confirmed as their keynote speaker on April 6th. Coach Pearl is a legend in the NCAA basketball world, and is currently a coach at Auburn. “He is one of the finest motivational speakers I have ever heard,” said Mayor Ronnie, and he has personally heard many.

He was jazzed about the upcoming Intercultural Seminar to be hosted by ASU and the City of Athens. The Cultural Competency presentations are open to the public, and are designed for first responders, the public at large, and for those in education. It will be held on Monday and Tue, February 22nd and 23rd, and for more information, see the Community Calendar.
The Home and Garden Show is coming on March 11th and 12th, and it seems like our whole city looks to it as being the proof that Spring will truly come again.

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And finally, how about those Shakes?? Three Grammys? The Alabama Shakes have always been dear to the Mayor’s heart, because his wife, Sandra, has known Brittney Howard’s grandmother since they were in high school. We both love the fact that in spite of fame, the Shakes still claim our wonderful town as their own. We prayed, and then it was time to roll, left both sobered, yet joyful.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2-5-2016 5-04-28 PMThe first time I ever interviewed Mayor Ronnie, it was in the old City Hall building, and I followed him outside as he went around the perimeter and picked up trash. It was starting to rain, he moved quickly, and instantly the place looked better. I thought about my own upbringing, and in our house we would have been in deep kimchee if we ever even THOUGHT of littering! I appreciated the fact that picking up the trash was not “below” the mayor.

Now, why is trash a “truly deep subject?” “Because,” he said, it gives the first impression of our city. A good first impression draws good people here, and drawing good people here means more jobs, a sustainable quality of life, and it’s a win-win situation all the way around.”

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Lynne Hart, of Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful also took up the “trash topic” in this edition, and there is a lot going on in that department, including the upcoming Elk River Clean Up to be held on April 2, 2016. There are former Adopt-a-spots that are no longer being kept up by original sponsors, and that situation is going to be addressed. There is also a plan in the works to have work release participants involved in “taking out the trash.” All of it makes Athens a better place to live.

So, what about taking out internal trash? That’s an ongoing job, and there is no better time to assess what can be kept and what can be pitched than at the State of the City Address, which was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and held at the Athens State Ball room on February 4th. In many ways, we are in great shape. We have a surplus in our general fund, there are several new businesses that have decided to come here, and the facilities and plants built by some are nearly ready to open. The Asahi plant is one, and the Shape and Polaris plants are on their way. The Aldi store is open, there is going to be a new Taco Bell built, a Ninja Steakhouse, and others. There is going to be construction begun on a 3-million dollar physical rehab facility, and on Highway 72 near Medical East, a 7-million dollar assisted living project will be breaking ground soon.

As far as “what to pitch,” the ongoing challenge is to find ways to cut spending without cutting services. The City Council is looking hard at ways to fund a school within the framework of what the voters have chosen, and, speaking of choosing, this is also a time to make sure you exercise your right to vote.

“I understand that sometimes people feel that election season never ends, but there are so many things that are important, and they have long term impact on Athens,” he said. “The most obvious one is all of the judicial positions that need to be filled. If you don’t get out and vote, you are making a choice that can last for a very long time.”

We talked about friends that are dealing with life and death situations such as cancer and kids who are in trouble, and prayed for them. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

1-22-2016 11-08-58 AMMonday the 18th had been a whirlwind of celebrations centered around Martin Luther King’s birthday. Sweet Home Church once again had been the host for the ceremony (or more accurately, “service”), and the Round Island Men’s Choir “tore it up,” as they always do.

However, someone very special was missing, and that was the “Jimmie” of this article. Veteran Athens City Councilman Jimmie Gill is in a serious “street fight” with cancer, and Mayor Ronnie, wanting to be respectful of Jimmie’s privacy, asked him, “Jimmie, what do you want me to tell caring people who call this office?” Jimmie’s response was as follows: “Tell them I am battling stage 2 cancer, and am starting chemo on Jan 25th.” But, the unsinkable Mr. Gill was not through—he also said, “I plan to whip this and be a candidate in 2016!” Mayor Ronnie then added, “We really missed Jimmie. It just wasn’t the same without him.”

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Every year, our school system has an essay contest in connection with Martin Luther King’s birthday, and there were 48 entries. It is significant to note that 30 of the 48 were from Julian Newman Elementary School.

We talked about Arise And Build, the original play being produced by Frank Travis and Charlotte Fulton, based on Charlotte’s book on the history of Trinity School as commemorated in Holding The Fort. The play is going to be presented at Athens State University on Friday, February 5th, Saturday the 6th, and Sunday the 7th. For more information, see Holly Hollman’s Special Feature on page________ “This is a big deal,” said Mayor Ronnie, and he added, “we have so much cooperation and support in our community that comes from business, the schools, the County, and the citizens.” We celebrated the “unscripted healing” that has taken place in our community because good hearted folks have chosen to do the right thing. We agreed we could use a serious dose of “arising and building” all over our nation.

We were then off to something that was genuinely stunning, and that was the Sankofa African-American Museum on Wheels, exhibited in the Athens State University ballroom on January 19th and 20th. The “rolling museum” was part of the Livingston Concert Series. It is the lifetime labor of love collected by Angela Jennings, and we could have stayed all day. There were heavy shackles used on slave ships which she had procured at auctions held by Christie’s and Sothby’s. There were original receipts for the purchase of slaves, Tuskegee Airmen memorabilia, kente cloth made out of silk, displays of invaluable inventions (such as the cell phone), which were made by African Americans, and so much more. “Every dime that I have has gone into this, “she said, and she is gone from her home in Denmark, SC for more than 300 days of the year making sure people have a chance to see it.

It was my pleasure to hear Mayor Ronnie tell her about Judge Horton’s decision to put everything on the line right here in the Limestone County Courthouse to see to it that the Scottsboro Boys got justice, and to watch her soak in the benefit of that act of bravery. It was also my pleasure to tell her about getting the chance to personally attend the last of the 16th Street Church bombing trials when I first got here, and to again see her enjoy the fruit of justice being served. But the true twinkle in her wise, soft eyes came when I told her what kind of history was made when the Swampers were Aretha Franklin’s back-up band when she recorded her breakout hit “I Ain’t Never Loved A Man” at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals. She promised me she would get the DVD of Muscle Shoals from PBS and devour it.

It was time for Ronnie “to roll” to the Youth Commission Meeting, and I stayed behind for awhile to experience the depth and beauty of Ms. Angela. We talked, hugged, prayed, sang, and had church. I finally tore myself away, so proud to be a citizen of Athens. Ms. Angela said she had been “treated like royalty,” and I was not surprised, because this is not just how Mayor Ronnie rolls, this is how WE roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner