Blazes That Build – What Makes Ronnie Roll

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Mayor Ronnie came bounding in, jubilant about just having received the news that his friend Steve Smith was cancer free. In this season of miracles, this is indeed a miracle, as cancer was once found throughout Steve’s body, and now the PET scan could find none. The news could not have come at a better time, as our city just launched its annual battle against cancer in the form of Relay for Life events, and this blaze that had threatened to consume Steve’s very life, served to build health and strength for both Steve and all who love him.

Another “blaze” that hit us last fall was the sudden passing of Ben Wiley, who had served as the Director of Parks and Recreation for 28 years. The mayor was pleased to make the announcement that Bert Bradford had been appointed to take Ben’s place, having been found after an intensive search. Mayor Ronnie and Human Resources Director Marsha Sloss headed up the process, and the Athens City Council voted unanimously to promote him. He previously had worked in the Building Department, and prior to that had been in the landscape business. His background in building as well as landscaping makes him the perfect fit for supervising over the parks and cemeteries, as well being on hand for the building of the new 70,000 square foot Rec Center, as well as the renovation of the Pilgrim’s Pride site.

As far as sports are concerned, Bert holds a degree in exercise science from Auburn and has played basketball all his life, mostly as a point guard. We did have to take a moment to acknowledge Auburn’s heartbreaking loss in the Final Four, and Bert chose to focus on how well they did, as well as the historical significance of the Tigers’ accomplishments during the entire season. That attitude will serve him well in his new position. He has twin daughters who have been in sports for the last seven years, so “Parks and Rec” is already a part of his family. As of Opening Day, there are 330 girls signed up to play softball, and 450 boys ready for baseball. Bert hopes to bring new programs to the new building, which is scheduled to be finished by the summer of 2020. As we spoke, Bert told Mayor Ronnie and me that there are “fantastic people” working in his department, and made it clear he is looking forward to his new position.

It had been 49 years since Mayor Ronnie returned home from Vietnam, another “blaze” that he chose to allow to build strength in his life, rather than burn him; and then we moved on to the topic of an actual blaze, that of Notre Dame. At that point several hundred million dollars had been raised to restore the cathedral, and we marveled at how something that was burning an icon was bringing people together. Then it was time to pray, and we did, for Athens as well as Paris, and then Ronnie had to roll.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner