By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

There is no doubt that in many ways 2020 has been one of the strangest years on record. As aggravating have been the COVID/Coronavirus Capers at times, one of most positive things that has come out of great uncertainty has been great creativity. The mayor as well as everyone who has helped mentor the class of 2020 Mayor’s Youth Commission wanted to do something special for the graduating seniors as they launched into the next phase of their life. After all, it was not exactly the standard prom-then-graduation-then-summer-then-college-or-new-job scene here in Athens or anywhere else, and everyone was proud of how they had adapted to circumstances that were unprecedented.

To properly honor the grads, Larry and Kay Burlingame, Helen Greenhaw, and Kathy Cochren put together a beautiful reception for the Youth Commission participants, which was held in the council chambers of City Hall. The flowers were from Isom’s U-Pick, the food was perfect, and all of it was done with the current COVID guidelines in place. The kids brought their parents and were presented with special commemorative gifts. These included an Athens Bi-centennial coin, pen, decorated fruit jar, and out of leaders’ own pockets the kids were given a 25 dollar gift certificate.

Mayor Ronnie told me that he took the plunge and used the time at the reception for feedback from the kids. It had been months since they had been in the same room, and he wanted to know what they liked, as well as what they didn’t, and what they would change. “They had been sad that we had to shut down so early because they still had projects they were planning on completing,” said the mayor. They found other ways to serve, even in the midst of COVID, and so far, no one would have changed anything. It was emotional to send them on their way, yet everyone is looking forward to this year with a new crew.

“We need to especially pray for kids, teachers, and parents,” said Mayor Ronnie as we discussed the fact that back-to-school is upon us again. “This year has been crazy, and people did well, but they all need our prayers for this year. They always do, but this year especially,” he added. He went on to mention that the City of Athens is looking for a new city planner. Erin Tidwell has been hired by TARCOG, (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments) and while she’ll be interfacing with the city from time to time, she’ll be missed at City Hall. “We are also looking to hire a new fire chief,” he said.

Displayed in the City Hall lobby, both for the senior send-off as well as for the viewing pleasure of all who enter the building is a triptych display of the photography of a 10-year-old girl by the name of Alex Hansen. Alex entered the Earthy Art Contest sponsored by Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful and won first place in the age 8-10 category. Her photos are stunning, no matter the age of the photographer. All photos were taken in Limestone County, and are a fitting reminder of the fact that we indeed live in Alabama the Beautiful.

Things looped around again to the strangeness of our times, and the need to pray. “It gets ‘real real’ when it hits the house,” said the mayor. I nodded, we prayed, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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