11-6-2015 10-54-15 AMWhen I met with Mayor Ronnie for this edition, I was treated to the additional presence of Acting Fire Chief Bryan Thornton and City Hall Communications Specialist Holly Hollman, (whose comments below will appear in italics.) The three of them were fresh off of a FEMA graded exercise that had been held at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, and the test scenario had to do with terrorism. I asked Bryan, “How’d we do?” “We did well,” he told me, although they don’t have their final FEMA grade back yet. “The departments all worked well together,” Bryan said, “and that is super important in that type of emergency.”

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He went on to tell me how much firefighting had changed in the 20 years that he has been on the force, and how every firefighter has to be trained, certified and able to deal with all types of hazardous situations. “We have equipment now that can do everything from lift someone off a floor, to rescuing people using the ‘jaws of life,’ to a rough terrain vehicle that can get an injured person off one of our trails. Our fire trucks are now really a mobile station,” he said. He added, “What we can do is function as first responders until the ALS (Advanced Life Support) people get there, and be ready to go to the next emergency without having to go back to the station. It’s a big change from when I was doing EMS, and from when I first became a firefighter.”

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Holly talked about some of the fun things firefighters get to do, some of which are coming up real soon:

“Athens firefighters work as Santa’s elves during the holiday season. The firefighters provide Santa transportation to local events such as Christmas Open House and the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee Tree Lighting Ceremony. Athens Fire and Rescue provides Santa a ride via fire truck instead of a sleigh.

At the tree lighting, firefighters and police help distribute toys and bicycles to children. The Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee receives the names of children through agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club. Thanks to donations, the committee helps provide Christmas gifts to these children. By participating in the event, firefighters get to interact with the community, particularly the youth, and help share the Christmas spirit.

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Firefighters also work as Santa’s elves through the Athens Fire and Rescue Auxiliary ‘Shop With A Firefighter’ program. Through fundraisers, the auxiliary provides Christmas to children submitted by local schools. These are children whose families need help in providing Christmas. The children pair up with a firefighter and shop for $100 worth of necessities, toys and clothes. The firefighters are often touched by the selflessness of these children, many of whom ask to purchase an item for another member of their family.”

Bryan mentioned that there is an increase in fires during the holidays due to space heaters, Christmas trees and deep fryers for turkeys. “We want people to be careful, and get heaters away from curtains and bed spreads, be sure to water your tree, and use your deep fryer properly.” He finished his visit with a heartfelt expression of satisfaction at being able to have a job where “you know at the end of the day you have made a difference.”

Mayor Ronnie added that “The excellence of our fire department, and how well Bryan, the battalion chiefs and all the firefighters are doing to help everyone from kids to the elderly is something we can be very thankful for and proud of.” Then Bryan and Holly got “back after it,” the Mayor and I prayed, and it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-17-2015 10-21-51 AMAnyone who has watched the news in the last year knows that our nation has been unfortunately embroiled in multiple controversies regarding the relationship between law enforcement and their respective communities.

When I arrived for our bi-monthly interview, Mayor Ronnie asked me if I had seen the recent Time magazine cover story entitled, What It’s Like To Be A Cop In America. I had seen it, I had not read it, and he made me a copy. We have talked often about the fact that in any city, large or small, the number one priority, always, is public safety. Without that, nothing else matters. The Time article was extensive in scope, long term in observation, and eminently fair.

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In Athens, most citizens, and certainly those involved in law enforcement, believe that “all lives matter,” and not just one people group. Nonetheless, there has been a concerted effort on the part of law enforcement and city government to make sure that this is not just a slogan. It is also important for all residents of Athens-Limestone County to know what is being done to make sure that all citizens are protected, everyone receives equal treatment, and all people feel safe. Mayor Ronnie talked about the candlelight vigil that was held in Big Spring Park to raise awareness of domestic violence, and that Limestone County Sheriff’s Dept new Public Affairs Officer Steve Young told the group about a woman getting killed on his watch in Louisiana, and how it affected him.

“Basically, we are in good shape,” Mayor Ronnie told me, “but all it takes is one thing to go wrong, and that can change in a minute,” he said. He was proud of Athens City Police Chief Floyd Johnson’s efforts to get out in the community, get with the people, hear their concerns, and tell them what is being done to improve service. Mayor Ronnie tied those efforts to the newest season of the Mayor’s Youth Commission, which is just getting started. “The priority of public safety grows as you are around young people,” he said. He then added, “They have got to know that we are here to help,” he said.

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Mayor Marks then sent me to Chief Johnson’s office to get more information on what the police department is doing, and my time with him was indeed blessed. He is making a point of having community meetings throughout our area. Sometimes it has been at churches such as Sweet Home, and sometimes in places other than churches. People are free to ask him any and all questions, and he is free to educate people from the perspective of what police officers face in the line of duty. All the way around, this has been a good move, and it is going to continue.

One of the technological advances that has made law enforcement improve has been the implementation of “body cams,” or body cameras. They record a police officer’s complete interaction with a citizen, and, as the saying goes, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” What warmed my heart is that Chief Johnson makes a point of watching the “tape” of at least two body cams per day, and gets back to the officer, regarding where they did well, and where they could improve.

Of course, the down side of body cams is the potential for the invasion of privacy, however, the upside is that it protects both the citizen as well as the officer, and that’s a good thing. I reported back to Mayor Ronnie, told him what I learned, and then it was time for him to roll, but not before we prayed.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-2-2015 2-57-58 PMAs sometimes happens, Mayor Ronnie had some thoughts and resources prepared for our appointment, and then, all of a sudden he knew that something else had moved into the “Plan A” slot for this edition. It puzzled him somewhat to be revisiting the necessity of knowing the Constitution of the United States of America, seeing as just two weeks ago, the Daughters of the American Revolution had given a wonderful Constitution Day presentation in the newly refurbished McCandless Hall on the ASU campus.

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By all accounts, it would appear that the understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is alive and well in Athens, AL, and for the most part, that is true. At many public functions there are free copies of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is available to anyone who wants one. They are provided by such organizations as The Heritage Foundation, the DAR, Hillsdale College, and the Alabama Policy Institute, and will fit in your pocket or pocketbook.

So, why the Mayoral concern about our kids knowing the founding documents of our country? I think it can be best described by former President George W. Bush when he said in his first Inaugural Address:

“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.”
“Every child must be taught these principles.” Which principles? Those laid down by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We put on our former teacher hats for a moment and discussed the readily available level of understanding of “the principles” amongst kids we had taught, and here is what we concluded. It is not enough to have a functional familiarity with the documents, the true skill comes with knowing how and why they work, and wrestling with them as they are applied to our lives, locally, on the state level, and nationally. This could be illustrated by how well we all know the Lord’s Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance, and yet sometimes “check out” and say them like we are robots. But what happens when we connect with their truth? Lots.

“People are struggling with mistrust,” he said, “and to an extent that is understandable. If you have leaders who are not upholding the Constitution, you can expect nothing else.” And, I might add, if you have leaders who don’t even know the Constitution, it unfortunately falls upon the informed populace to speak truth to power. What, then, is the “intergenerational pact?” It is the understanding that the deep imprinting of the brilliance of the Founders swings both ways. Adults need to teach it, kids need to truly internalize it, not just regurgitate it, and bless their elders with their conclusions.

This year, as the Mayor and those who help him with the Mayor’s Youth Commission gear up for teaching our kids about life, local and state government, as well as what makes a city work well, there is going to be a new emphasis on the Constitution. They won’t just be mouthing words, but, as Mayor Ronnie read to me from his own pocket version of that blessed document—“We hold these truths to be self evident….” is going to be a serious part of what makes both Ronnie and our kids roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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9-18-2015 4-40-52 PMI have only known a few people whose eyes dance when it’s budget time, and Mayor Ronnie is one of them. That’s when the “teacher” in him comes out in force, he’ll jump up, head to the white board, and proceed to draw arrows, percentage marks, and explain mils. This day was no exception, and thankfully my level of fiscal ignorance was reduced once again.

“It is the law of the State of Alabama for the City Council to receive a budget, and for the City Council to pass it,” he told me. This applies to any city with a population for 12,000. Prior to voting, they have work sessions that go on for hours, and always emerge triumphant. They have to! Then the funds are released on October 1, and once again we are in the black.

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That doesn’t mean there aren’t some tough rows to hoe, and the waste, waste water, gas and general budgets are all gone over with a fine tooth comb. The goal is to be prepared for any and all challenges, as well as the future, just as it is with any household. Every department has a concept of what it will take to run well, and also has to balance that with the needs of the other departments. Because one of the Mayor’s responsibilities is to improve operations in each department, it is easy to understand why this process begins months before the deadline, and why it can be so daunting.

He then proceeded to tell me about the upcoming utility rate reductions. “When we lost Pilgrim’s Pride, we lost about $1.6 million, and it had to be made up. The City Council voted for rate increases that were automatic. No one liked them, and that includes me, but now we are in the position to bring them back down again. People need to understand that we mean what we say when we talk about reducing,” he said.

He also talked about the need for fleet management when it comes to sanitation. The city is going to have to find a new provider for the sanitation trucks, and there are some trucks that need to be replaced. Just ONE sanitation truck costs over $300K, and our city is growing.

There are more businesses coming in, which will be announced soon, and we are heading into Festival Season.

From the standpoint of the faith community, Friendship United Methodist Church just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The morning service focused on looking back, and the evening service focused on looking forward. Lindsay Lane is going to be able to expand its Christian School. We both wondered what churches go through in order to meet their ministerial goals, and realized that we needed to thank God for them as well as pray for strong churches everywhere if we are going to have a strong city.

So, we did. We thanked God for Athens, for churches, and for being His kids. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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9-7-2015 10-39-51 AMRecently Mayor Ronnie came across a story that underscores some qualities in our culture that have become, if you will pardon the pun, a bit “frayed.” There are any number of ways to describe that which has become “unraveled.” In the 19th century, the terms were “civility” and “deportment.” In the 20th century they were simply defined as having “good manners,” or stated by way of retort, “my daddy didn’t raise me that way.”

The story Mayor Ronnie told me was about Cecil Rhodes, the British man who started the Rhodes Scholar prize and Rhodes University. Love him or hate him for his impact on South Africa, this particular story illustrates the power of being flexible and gracious, especially when things aren’t going properly. As was the case with most wealthy people during Queen Victoria’s reign, being appropriately dressed for dinner was non-negotiable. You didn’t come to the table in cargo shorts, a T shirt and flip flops, and Cecil was a stickler for formal dress when expected.

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The Right Honorable Mr. Rhodes was having a formal dinner, and a young man who had been invited to the fete found himself in what appeared to be a dilemma with no proper solution for the etiquette of the day. The train had been delayed, and while the young man had brought proper attire for the evening, he had no chance to change ahead of time. He arrived bedraggled in travel-stained clothing, was willing to convey his solemn regrets, and not join Mr. Rhodes or his other guests. (I don’t know why the young man wasn’t invited to go change, but that’s beside the point.) Before anyone knew it, Mr. Rhodes appeared dressed for dinner in a noticeably worn old blue suit, and warmly welcomed his guest to the table. Cecil may have been a stickler, but not at the expense of the feelings of others.

What struck Mayor Ronnie in the “blue suit” story is the need for all of us to return to a state of giving the benefit of the doubt, and to be civil, even when we disagree. All of us in this town have people with whom we don’t agree, either religiously, philosophically, or politically. We have different concepts of what we should approve and how we should spend public funds, run government, construct buildings, and provide services.

But, what kind of legacy are we handing down to the young people who will be running Athens- Limestone County before we can make, as my dad used to say, “two shakes of a lamb’s tail?” Did they see a good example coming from us as we grappled with the recent school vote, and find themselves being inspired to step up and take over when it’s their time, or did the Facebook fights make them want to run the other direction?

“Thankfully, there were 50 young people who voted, most of whom were college students,” he told me. And, I learned that in contrast to 2012, when only 20% of our citizens turned out to vote, this time 44% of our registered voters cast their ballot. As bumpy as it was, we both concluded that it was “democracy in action,” and indeed there was cause to hope. “We have got to get better at agreeing to disagree,” he said, “if for no other reason than public safety. We will all feel anger sometimes, and it has its place, but don’t we also need to get good at managing it?” I nodded, and we prayed, most specifically that we would all be willing, for the sake of unity in our town, to wear “an old blue suit.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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8-23-2015 1-08-31 PMThe full title of this section of Gen Vinnie Boles book is 4 Expectations Teams Have Of Leaders, and while the frame of reference is from a military standpoint, having a clear understanding of the team’s expectations in a family, church, town, school or business is one of the things that brings clarity, and causes leaders to improve their skills.

As Mayor Ronnie read to me, (without donning his Dr. Seuss hat, by the way,) I learned something new: statistically people who could be considered non-risk takers make two big mistakes a year, and people who could be considered risk takers also make two big mistakes a year. He also told me that General Colin Powell states that “leaders have to be comfortable making decisions with about 60% of the information.” That’s a sobering thought, especially when it comes to combat. Thankfully, in Athens we are not often in a situation where decisions have to be made that are life-or-death, but they are none the less important.

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“My charge is to do my best to get all the information to the City Council so they can make a good decision,” he said, and emphasized the fact that the books are open, especially important in an election season, and as the City “budget season” begins this fall.

So, what is General Boles referring to when he talks about the expectations of the team?

1.The team expects the establishment of structure
Sometimes structure and the processes generated by them need to be streamlined. One thing Mayor Ronnie wants to do when the new City Hall is finished is to make a “one stop shop” for people to get business licenses. He is hoping that they’ll be able to get it all taken care of in one location, and to essentially have someone present to guide them through the process from start to finish.
2. The team expects excellence when it comes to managing relationships
I told him that in my other business, Juice Plus+, we have a saying: “relationships are not something, they are everything.” He took off on that. “That’s really true,” he said. “That’s what it all comes down to, whether it’s home, church, community or job.”
3. The team expects a balance when it comes to risk taking
He has learned over the years that there will always be someone who is not pleased with the result of weighing risk versus playing it safe, and again, I was really struck by the “two mistakes a year” concept. He chuckled and said, “If it’s two a year for everybody, that’s good!”
4. The team expects a leader to make decisions

I don’t envy him at all in that department. Decisions to hire, fire, revamp, streamline, save money, spend money, speak up, say nothing, accidentally ruffle feathers or yank someone’s chain, it all goes with the territory. However, there is something that we as believers are commanded to do for our leaders, and that is pray for them.
So we did, as we always do, and then it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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8-7-2015 2-59-35 PMIt is time for our kids to head back to school, and Mayor Ronnie was full of thoughts about the year ahead. Both of us have spent time in the classroom as teachers, and have no end of respect for the job our teachers are being called upon to do, as well as the sacrifices they make. Though it’s not easy to discuss, we agreed that teachers have to function far more as parents than was the case when we were kids, or, for that matter, when we were teaching.

We have another new dilemma. We have some kids who are hungry, and a number of kids who are overfed and undernourished. We have parents who are scrambling to make ends meet. However, there is some good news, coming from Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges. He and a man named Billy Shore have teamed up in a non-profit organization called No Kid Hungry, and are working from the private sector to deal with both issues: food insecurity and obesity. Strangely, some of the states that have the highest childhood obesity issues are also the ones with the highest levels of food insecurity.

What Jeff is particularly focused on is the importance of breakfast for kids. He said, “It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’re talking about brain food, man!” He actually goes to the schools himself to serve the kids, and No Kid Hungry is making a difference all across the nation.

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No doubt it is tough to believe in dreams when you are hungry, but we were later blessed to hear about a man who worked hard through the lean times, became successful, and came back home to Athens with the purpose of helping adults and kids alike dream. Legendary country songwriter Roger Murrah was at the High Cotton Art Incubator on August 3rd, along with his sister and brother-in-law, and he has given our town a special gift.

8-7-2015 3-00-04 PMWhile it took the whole Murrah family chopping cotton in order to survive, Roger’s dad traded a truck for a 1929 Howard upright piano so his kids could have a chance to discover music. Because of the strength of their family and faith, the kids never had the sense of being poor. They would make music by the hour after the chores were done, and we got to hear some of it live. Appropriately, the song they sang was “High Cotton,” and the Murrah family piano is on loan to High Cotton Arts.

Mayor Ronnie mentioned at High Cotton that he understood as a former public school educator the enormous pressure teachers are under, and expressed his support, prayers and wishes for teachers, kids, parents and the community to have a great school year.

Mayor Ronnie said Murrah’s announcement to support local arts and the programs for children offered by High Cotton Arts cultivate the dreams of our children. He said adults can encourage children to reach their dreams, or they can kill those dreams quickly. Murrah’s endeavors along with High Cotton Arts are providing that encouragement.

I asked if kids were going to be allowed to gently play the piano as it “lives” in the Art Incubator, and Roger’s sister Tina seemed to think that was a good idea. We’ll see what they decide, but in the mean time, we are blessed to be in “High Cotton,” and it is time for all of us to roll!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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7-17-2015 1-42-14 PMIt has been a whirlwind week. Mayor Ronnie was at the Electric Cities conference in Florida, and I was at a business conference in Cleveland. At Mayor Ronnie’s conference, one of the keynote speakers was actor Steve Ford, son of former US President Gerald and First Lady Betty Ford. Steve has had an impressive acting career, appearing in such films as When Harry Met Sally, Blackhawk Down, and lent his voice to Transformers.

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Mayor Ronnie got to spend time talking with Mr. Ford and came away with a “new perspective on perspective.” Steve’s dad was one of the most underrated and misunderstood presidents in our history, and had to step up to clean up the messes left by Vice President Spiro Agnew, followed by President Richard Nixon. It was a terrible time in America, and by all accounts, we were falling apart. Inner cities were blowing up, campuses were blowing up, Vietnam was blowing up, and President Ford became laser focused on doing whatever he could to heal the country, even if it was controversial. His methodology was not exactly popular, and specifically for Mayor Ronnie, as a ‘Nam vet, the decision on the part of President Ford to forgive the draft dodgers, who were hiding out in Canada or elsewhere was not an easy one. Mayor Ronnie’s “takeaway” from his chat with Steve Ford was that true leadership has the ability to see the focused object, as well as the big picture, sacrificing neither, and being willing to be misunderstood for the sake of the people you are serving.

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Any leader faces that, if they are doing their job well. And it is stunning to see how quickly people allow their fears to take precedence over facts.

General Boles has continued to challenge the mayor with the tales of triumphs and mistakes that were made during Boles’ legendary military career. Some of those “stretchers” were captured in the following 5 questions:

• Engagement-Is there transparency in the organization? (In our case, the City of Athens) Is there care for employees and customers (citizens)?
• Integrity-Is it visible? Do leaders “walk their talk”?
• Quality Products and Services- Does the organization make or provide something they are proud to stand for and stand behind? He asked me, “What do we want our city to look like? Are people thinking about future generations? What will we be handing off to our young people?”
• Purpose- Does the organization make the greater society better instead of using only a financial equation for validation of its purpose? That is the question on the table regarding the vote for schools. Do the benefits outweigh the detractors, and will new schools serve to protect the autonomy of Athens? “I tell people that they need to do their own research, and vote according to their conscience,” he said. “I know how my wife and I are going to vote,” he added.
• Operations-Specifically, do the leaders conduct themselves honorably? Is the company (or city), viewed as being at the top of their industry category? If NerdWallet’s recent assessment is accurate, Athens is doing well. However, Mayor Ronnie quickly pointed out that no matter how many times we talk about “quality of life” in this column, that is the all-encompassing goal because it pre-supposes that everything else is in line, i.e., public safety, education, jobs, and peoples’ life of faith.

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Lastly, he told a funny story of passionate Auburn fan, and City Councilman Harold Wales having to concede that Alabama Coach Nick Saban made some wise statements when he queried, “What is leadership? We make a mistake about what it is. It’s really about influencing someone else for their benefit. So many people think it’s about influencing someone for their own benefit. That’s manipulation, not leadership.” “Whoa!” I hollered, when the Mayor told me that. Then we prayed, and it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-3-2015 4-24-15 PMGeorge MacDonald made the following statement: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” Mayor Ronnie looked at me and said, “Do you think that’s true?” I thought for a moment and replied, “Yes. There are people that I genuinely love, but I don’t trust them at all.” He nodded. I thought further and concluded that what I would like the most is to be trusted, even if I am not very popular. He agreed. MacDonald’s statement is the introduction to the chapter in Gen Vinnie Boles’ book, 4-3-2-1 Leadership entitled, “Trust: The Most Critical Component.”

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We talked about the fact that our whole culture is facing a crisis of faith, and not just spiritually or religiously speaking. There is a leadership vacuum, people are “daddy hungry,” and the promises of “transparency” are fodder for late night comedy routines.

He then said, “If there is a lack of trust, our charge is to strive to achieve the trust factor.” Why is that tough to do? General Boles has some thoughts:
• “People have been burned by leaders in their past trust experiences, which heightens their resistance to trust in the future.
• It is hard to measure. Trust is viewed as a “touchy feely” objective. For example, how would write a performance objective that measured the level of trust that the leader attained from the led?
• Leaders find it difficult to do. They have to establish a climate of trust. That means letting people make mistakes and ensuring they learn from them. The leader has to let go of some of the control/power they perceive they have: “If I already know how to do it, why take the risk of letting you try it?”
• Trust is personal. Individuals have their own personal trust equation or logic trail they follow to confer trust in another. Some do it more willingly than others; however, you cannot assume because some seem to trust you that all do.
• Trust is easily lost. My experience has shown me that if a leader violates the bond of trust with the led, even once, that trust will be gone and not easily regained. Because it’s personal, people feel personally violated when trust is breached.”

“We have to do our best to live out our core beliefs,” Mayor Ronnie said. While we have talked about them in many articles, they bear repeating because, if they are upheld, our town will continue to thrive.

Number one is public safety; others include jobs, education, quality of life, and expressing one’s faith. He then said, “We also have to ask the question, ‘what does transparency mean to you?’” He added, “One way you do it is to open the public records re: budget items.” One of the things that the citizens will be voting on will be funding for the public schools, and on this ballot there will be two votes-one for the 12 mils property tax, and one designating the details as to how that will be dispersed. That is a first for our town, and oddly, the latter might not make everyone happy.

We talked about people that we admired for their transparency, and he mentioned Annette Barnes, who keeps track of the city’s finances. “I have never seen anyone who is more careful with each line item,” he said. “We are blessed to have her,” I said. We prayed, asking for the ability to build trust and be transparent, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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6-18-2015 4-33-36 PMFriday, June 12th, our town celebrated Flag Day at an annual gathering hosted by Athens State University, and Mayor Ronnie was there. I have seen him inspired on several occasions by various patriotic, motivational or religious presentations, but rarely have I seen him so “jazzed.” He had heard US Army Brigadier General (Ret) Vincent Boles speak at the gathering, and immediately downloaded Boles’ book, entitled, 4-3-2-1 Leadership: What America’s Sons and Daughters Taught Me on the Road from 2d Lieutenant to 2 Star General.

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Boles retired from his position at Redstone and decided to stay in the area. He started a consulting and leadership training business, and Dr. Tom Sisk, Limestone County Public Schools Superintendent shares the Mayor’s enthusiasm re: the effectiveness of 4-2-3-1. Dr. Sisk told me he sat down and talked at length with MG Boles to see if they shared the same philosophy of leadership, and they did. Dr. Sisk then hired MG Boles to do some intensive training with principals in the County system. “We selected Gen Boles because of his proven record in teaching leadership principles. He spoke to all our principals, and has done some individual training as well. I am pleased,” said Dr. Sisk as he was heading to an educational conference.

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Just taking a quick first look at Mayor Ronnie’s tablet version, I could see why they are so excited. Boles, who is a Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq veteran decided to retire here in 2009. While the principles outlined in his book had their proving ground in his illustrious military career, they are transferable to any situation, whether it be running a business, a school, or a town. The “three legged stool” for his operational and philosophical premise is:
1. What’s the standard?
2. What’s the system to attain the standard?
3. Who’s in charge of the pieces of the system?

Then comes the most important part: “Remember, I said ask AND answer.” That is crucial, because both leaders and those they are leading must be held accountable to the results of the inquiry, and therein exists the potential for healthy internal growth that manifests itself as improved quality of life.

Mayor Ronnie told me that Gen Boles, like so many of us, never planned on settling in Alabama. He also said that “Vinnie” has a great sense of humor, and is “so glad he has continued to serve in our area.”

4-3-2-1 also had another quote, attributed to Thomas Pynchon- “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
I own a decent collection of books, tapes, CDs and DVDs on leadership and personal development, and rarely have I had a statement grab me as did Pynchon’s. It was an “aha moment” for me if there ever was one, and it had struck the Mayor as profound, as well.

So, I think it’s safe to say that General Boles’ “invasion” has begun in Athens and Limestone County, and I am looking forward to what I am hoping will be an extensive series on his treatment of the leadership topic, because all of us can improve our leadership skills. The Mayor’s schedule was not quite as tight as it often is on Mondays, so we had time to explore the book more, and then we prayed. On Wednesday, he called and said, “Guess what arrived in the mail today? An autographed copy of the book, and a separate, hand written note from General Boles!” It was a delightful surprise, and no doubt, like all his books, it will be lovingly abused, filled with dog eared, highlighted, and folded pages, proof of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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