It was our first meeting of this Leap Year, and per usual, Mayor Ronnie nearly bounded into the room. I would say that around 95% of the time that’s how “Ronnie rolls,” but today he was virtually turbo-charged. “I can’t tell you how excited I am about 2016,” he said, as he proceeded to whip out his somewhat beat up notes from the previous day’s sermon. It had been entitled something along the lines of “Gettin’ Over The Hump, Gettin’ Over The Slump,” and it provided for the Mayor a board from which to vigorously spring into our conversation.
We compared notes on our respective holidays, and he was quick to express his gratitude for how hard the utilities crews worked during what will most likely come to be known as to as the “Christmas Floods.” He told me, “Those guys were literally down in culverts pulling out leaves so that the water could move,” He said. “They worked for just about 24 hours straight,” he added.
He went back to his sermon notes, and began to preach. “Are you trying, or are you in training?” I chose not to resist the temptation to reply in my crummy impersonation of Master Yoda by saying, “Do or do not do; there is no ‘try.’” We talked for awhile about the fact that personal development, whether it is on the part of an individual, a family, a business, or a city is not optional. We can and must rest, but too much, and we rust.
“We (the City of Athens) are in training to be better stewards of money, public safety, kids, seniors, and our resources,” he said.
“2016 has me as excited as I have ever been about a new year,” he said. He continued by saying, “If you can’t get excited about living in North Alabama, I guess you just can’t get excited.” He went down the list of all the things that are either finished or will be soon—the Asahi plant, the Courthouse remodeling project, and the City Hall building. “I inherited an office in a building built in 1954 that had black mold and asbestos,” he said, and I reminded him that’s where we did our very first interview for this column.
He talked for a bit about the “one stop shop” concept that will be a part of the new services that will be available when City Hall opens this spring. What he means by that term is that there will be someone at City Hall who will walk a person or corporation wishing to build in Limestone County through the entire permit and inspection process so that they don’t have to be sent all over the County. This approach has been used in Florence and has saved time, money and resources.
“For the first time, the City is going to have a significant amount of money, (close to a million dollars) for street and road repair,” he said. The recent storm was a good thing in that it exposed what needed to be either built, repaired, or upgraded when it comes to drains and culverts.
As far as new projects, there is the Shape plant, and while he couldn’t mention any specifics, so far there are two or three new commercial projects that will bring growth to Limestone County. “I am excited about jobs,” he said.
Over the holidays he sent a letter to the City Council, encouraging them to brainstorm with him, either in what are known as one-on-ones, as well as when they get back together after the holiday recess. He talked a bit about the importance of setting goals. I asked him, “Do you have any personal goals for 2016?” “Taking out consistent time for exercise,” was his response. One last time he talked about how excited he was about this year. Then we prayed, and Ronnie had to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner