When I first started to interview Mayor Ronnie Marks in 2011, there was a book on his desk that would catch my attention every time I came into his office. The name of the book is The Seamless City by Rick Baker, former mayor of St. Petersburg, FL. Its subtitle is: A Conservative Mayor’s Approach To Urban Revitalization That Can Work Anywhere.
The copy of the book belonging to Mayor Marks has been subjected to what can only be described as “loving abuse.” It is highlighted, filled with multi-colored post-its, has been read and re-read, has notes written in the margin, stuff that has been circled, and has been a source of great inspiration to him. I know he treats his Bibles the same way, as well as any resources he uses for preparing his Sunday School lessons, and I was glad that for our first article of 2014 we decided to return to Seamless.
We talked about the reasons we do things, and he believes that mayors are going to be the most effective when they approach their job with the vision of handing it off someday.”The job of city building and development is never done,” the book says, and Mayor Ronnie would add, “It’s a relay race, not a sprint or a marathon.”
Anyone who has run relay in track knows that the best part is when your teammate has the baton firmly in hand, and the burst of energy that seals it is probably the best way to describe some of what is going on in our city to make it wonderful. One of the things being done to build for the future of Athens is to train our kids for leadership through the Mayor’s Youth Commission. The 11th and 12th graders are finishing up their unit, which started in the fall, and the 9th and 10th graders will be beginning soon.
Our city is in the final running as one that could receive the Governor’s Quality of Life Award, and the announcement will be made soon. To compete, a city had to submit projects in one of 4 subject areas: Economic Development, Public Safety, Public Works and Public Service. For its project, the City of Athens chose to open a Compressed Natural Gas station near the Sportsplex and begin to use vehicles that run on CNG.
Something else we discussed is the good news that there are corporations that are seriously “courting” us and if they choose to locate their operations in Athens-Limestone County, it could have a significant economic impact on our city.
Speaking of “significant impact,” it has been ten years since Officer Anthony Mims and Sergeant Larry Russell were gunned down while in the line of duty. There was a ceremony to commemorate their service and their sacrifice. “Public safety has to be our #1 priority,” Mayor Marks said. “Without that, none of the rest of it matters. Our police are not the only ones who are in danger as they protect us. Utilities workers face storms, floods, electrical currents and other hazards just to serve us, and we need to be thankful,” he said.
He closed our time by returning to the responsibilities of a mayor, and the desire to give away that mantle to the next generation. The Seamless City said it best: “I’ll wear this coat for awhile, care for it, and give it to another,” and doing that well is some of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner