Mayor Ronnie, City Hall Communications Specialist Holly Hollman and I sat in the Mayor’s office with the purpose of “looking back and looking ahead.” While it’s customary to do a “year-in-review” article this time of year, it became clear that the most important thing to do with our time was to show gratitude for all the good that had occurred, while we anticipate what’s coming in 2014.
In January, the French Consul gave French Legion of Honor medals to WWII Vets Theo Calvin, Jack Hunter, Cal Bonner and Clifford Wilford, and came to us to do so.
In February, the city’s new CNG (compressed natural gas) garbage truck went to work, which caught the attention of Governor Bentley.
In March, in an AP article citing the findings of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Limestone County was voted the fifth healthiest county in the State.
April saw Athens being voted as the third most business friendly city in the State by the Alabama Policy Institute. In addition, Athens received the only $20,000 grant in the State to improve our beautiful, new, blooming and booming Farmer’s Market. Finally, Athens High School was named by U.S. News and World Report as the 13th best in Alabama.
May events could take up the rest of the article, but some of the highlights were a “whirlwind” trip by City leaders to the Big Apple to review our bond ratings, and there was an EFO twister which whirled through Athens, but thankfully caused little damage and no injuries. 284 new jobs were created in Limestone County, and Relay for Life raised a 2013 total of $14,047 dollars to fight cancer.
In June, the Farmer’s Market was inaugurated, and was so successful that it ran longer than originally planned.
Life was preserved in July as Athens City Councilman Chris Seibert saved two kids from being taken away from the shoreline by a riptide. He was in Perdido Beach, CA attending a utilities conference. Justice was served as Andrew Lackey was executed for the stabbing, shooting and beating death of 80 year old Athens resident Charlie Newman. TVA named 141 acres on I-65 at mile-marker 347 as “Primary/Ready to Recruit,” which could attract global business to the area.
August saw the switch to single stream recycling and a contract with Decatur, resulting in an increase in participation.
September and October saw the beginning of Festival Season in Athens, and Grease, Fiddlers’ and Storytelling had a great turnout. The first public CNG station between Nashville and Birmingham opened, and Carpenter Technology announced it would employ 250 new workers by 2017.
In November, the Trinity Community Center received a development block grant for $250,000, the Parks and Rec 8 and 9 year old Boys’ Soccer team took the state title, and someone taped 2 Kilos of marijuana to a train at Dalkin, causing a bomb scare.
December was when the Tanner High Rattlers football team took their 2nd AA State title, the Athens High swim team finished as runner-ups, Steelcase doubled employment in Athens, and the Farmer’s Market beautification project was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony. In the words of the Mayor, “It has been a fabulous year.”
Construction on the new library and City Hall is coming along, and should be completed in 2014, along with a number of roads which are being improved with the ATRIP grant. There are plans to expand the meeting area of the Alabama Vets’ Museum, and the Mayor’s Youth Commission now includes 9th and 10th graders. The Mayor just took some of kids to visit 5 hospice patients, and some walked in the Christmas Parade.
“God has given us many gifts, and the challenge is to do something good with them,” said Mayor Marks. The commitment to do just that is what makes Ronnie roll, and he and his staff wish all of you a blessed Christmas holiday and a joyous New Year.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner