By: Ali Elizabeth Turner On Wednesday, January 31, Mayor Ronnie Marks gave his annual State of the City address at the Athens State University Ballroom. The room was full and the food was good. For several years, the mayor has found that a specific book serves well to provide a theme for the address, and this year’s selection was Steve Gilliam’s Enjoy The Ride. Gilliam’s continual point is that, one way or another, there is going to be a journey, and since “no one gets out of here alive,” everyone from a city to a family or an individual would be well-served to find a way to enjoy the journey. Currently we have many reasons to enjoy the ride. The recent announcement of the Toyota plant and the thousands of jobs it will create was even mentioned Tuesday night in President Trump’s State of the Union speech. We have successfully finished negotiating with Pilgrim’s Pride, and now have the deed to the property that has been legendary for its blight. Now there are bright prospects for the land to be beautifully re-purposed. The new Athens High School is coming right along, and construction has begun on the new Athens Bible School. The plans were revealed for the new 70,000-square-foot Parks and Recreation building, as well as the architect’s rendering of the building planned for the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce; there was much discussion about the grants received for various road improvements, including sidewalks and bridges, sewers, and the need for a road to be made connecting Forrest St. all the way down to where Chick-fil-A meets Highway 72. There was much discussion about our 200 year birthday celebrations, for both Limestone County and the city of Athens, and a reminder of some of our most famous citizens. We were reminded of how blessed we have been to have people like Patty Malone, Judge James Horton, Mary Wells, Governor Houston, and more. We were reminded that City Councilman Frank Travis is heading up this year’s special production of Poke Sallet, which will be a revue of the 200 years that have made Athens-Limestone County the wonderful place that it is. As heartening as all the good news of economic development, housing developments, and infrastructure improvements may be, what I think rang true for all those attending is that the greatest thing being developed in our area is our young people. Students from the current Mayor’s Youth Commission, now in its 5th year, made statements that were shown as part of the slide presentation. They talked about how much they love our town, how safe they feel, and how much they have enjoyed being a part of the Commission. But, I think the best was saved til last. Third grader Madisyn Marshall, who was the 3rd grade winner of the Martin Luther King Essay Contest, wrote in her essay that she planned to be President of the United States when she turns 35. Apparently, she has it all planned out because she said that in order to do so, she is first going to have to be a United States Senator. And, I think it’s safe to say that we are all going to enjoy the ride as we cheer her on. By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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