It was the first time in two months that we were able to sit down at the round table that is in the Mayor’s office. “Man, it feels good to be back here, Mr. Mayor!” I said. Being able to walk down the hall and greet people felt like a big, positive “step back”, as well as forward, to the “Great Re-opening.” “March 13th was the first case of COVID in the State,” he said. I then added, “And in Limestone County we have had no fatalities.”
The Mayor then told me about his adventures with Quinton, (his grandson) the previous day, which had also been Mother’s Day. Quinton had been so excited about what he was going to give his grandmother to celebrate in her honor that he couldn’t wait until Sunday. On Sunday Ronnie and Quinton had gone for a bike ride, and at one point when they were headed back, the Mayor said to passersby, (with his trademark dry humor) , “Would you please call me an Uber?”
We then moved to the topic of how we need to proceed with the new phase of re-opening Alabama. “We have to have wisdom and patience,” he said. “That seems in short supply with some folks,” I responded. We talked about the things which had opened back up—barber shops, hair salons, the tennis courts, restaurants, and he added, “Everybody is learning to more with less.”
One of the things that always brings joy on a Monday morning is to talk about the special things that “make Athens Athens.” Mayor Ronnie told of the Relay for Life event that had been held at the Courthouse on Friday night. It involved over 400 luminarias lit in honor of those who had finished their battle with cancer. “The courthouse was lit up, everyone was spread out, and there was a parade, he said.
Speaking of parades, on Wednesdaythe mayor and Holly Hollman went to Limestone Health Facility to celebrate in the parade that drove by the residents, who had all been brought outside. What made the event so special is that each resident had been interviewed and asked for words of wisdom and secrets to success. They made placards that said things like, “Speak kindly,” “Love Everybody,” and “Remember God.” One of my favorites was, “Be honest, be loyal, be truthful, and be a good friend.” One woman was dancing and wanted to dance with the mayor as he drove by. The whole parade can be seen on Facebook at the City of Athens Public Relations site.
The mayor then told me a story that served to seal the theme of “lights” for the title. Someone had painted truly dreadful graffiti on the back alley wall of Sweetest Things. They asked the mayor if there was something he could do. He said he would look into it, and then had to head to a TV interview near the Athens Bicentennial mural. There happened to be a painting crew across the street, and the mayor asked if it would be possible for them to see if they could do something about what happened to Sweetest Things. The painter checked with his boss, the boss was all over it, and as soon as the crew was finished, they headed down the alley. You had people of three colors and two genders solving the problem, and Athens shined brightly. I was a bit misty when the mayor told me this, and grateful that I Iive here. Our hour had flown, as it always does, and it was time to pray. So we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner