Mayor Ronnie Marks has been keeping watch over Athens since 2010, and has always had a clear vision and plan as to what constitutes solid and profitable city management. He says, “Our job is to provide good government and services while being fiscally responsible, and I always have the same five basic areas of concern that must all be addressed if I am going to do my job.”
• Public Safety-“That is the most important. If the city isn’t safe, the rest doesn’t matter.” These days that also includes having in place a social media service that is “timely, true, and accurate.”
• Jobs and Economic Development - “People need to be able to support their families, and several businesses have come to Athens in the last several years, with more on the way.”
• Education- “If our kids are going to live well and be productive, we must be vigilant about giving them a quality education. After all, they’re the ones who will be running this city after we’re gone.”
• Improving Governmental Operations - “We must continuously look at avenues to enhance services for citizens.”
• Quality of Life-“My goal is to make Athens so attractive that even if kids move away from this city for years, they’ll come back and settle here because it is home.”
Another high priority under Mayor Marks’ tenure has been addressing infrastructure, which includes a $4 million sewer project to expand toward Mooresville Road and accommodate growth. As for streets, the city is receiving $14 million in ATRIP funding to improve drainage, surfacing and safety of main thoroughfares with the city’s match being $3 million. Another $1 million has been allocated for paving local streets.
What else has been accomplished since Mayor Marks took office? While he will be the first to tell you in no uncertain terms that everything that has been accomplished as been the result of people working together in that special “Athens way,” here are some of the things that stand out:
• The Athens Police Department officers now all have body cameras, and were one of the first in the state to do so. New patrol cars have been purchased, and Fire and Rescue is working collaboratively with fleet designers on a state of the art fire truck to improve its aging fleet.
• Over 100 structures that had been designated as abandoned or unsafe have been torn down and removed. Also, 15 houses were repaired and brought up to code by their owners.
• More than 107 million dollars have been invested in industrial projects within the city limits, and these have resulted in over 500 jobs.
• Athens Utilities, the City of Athens, Limestone County and the City of Huntsville have worked together to bring in such major businesses as GE Aviation, Remington and Polaris.
• A new high school is under development on U.S. 31 with Athens Middle to be moved to the old high school upon completion.
• The All Kid’s Dugout at the Sportsplex has been repaired and renovated, resulting in it being accessible for those with all abilities.
• Athens was the first city in Alabama on the Interstate 65 Corridor north of Birmingham to construct a public Compressed Natural Gas filling station, which means cleaner energy, energy independence and savings to the city.
The new City Hall is the home of what has been referred to as the “one stop shop” for builders who are in need of permits, inspections, and personal help with navigating zoning requirements as well as other regulations. This greatly streamlines the old process and saves the city money. We also have a much greater level of information available to us with regard to “all things Athens” through the creation of the grant coordinator/communications specialist position.
Mayor Marks had this to say about the city he serves with joy: “The City of Athens is located in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, (being No. 65 in the nation), according to the Census Bureau. In addition, our county was the top in economic development for job creation in Alabama this year. I want to keep this energy level going for our city.” If positive leadership with proven results is what you are looking for in a Mayor, then re-elect Ronnie Marks on August 23rd.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner