It has been nearly a year since I walked up to Mayor Marks at an event that was being held at the Veterans’ Museum, and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview twice a month for Athens Now. My idea was to publish something that would resemble the comfortableness of the “Fireside Chats” that were started by FDR during the roughest economic time in our country, and made legendary by Ronald Reagan during the same type of era in the ‘80s.
He liked the idea, we began to meet at his office every two weeks on Monday mornings, and I quickly became a woman who is genuinely thankful that he is our mayor. I have found him to have a shepherd’s heart for Athens, he possesses a vision for our city, and decades of quantifiable experience that have only served to sharpen his leadership skills. He also has the energy of a man decades younger than he is, and he spends that energy freely on us. Lastly, he is not afraid to admit his need for God’s help and wisdom for the job, and is not ashamed to pray for it out loud.
So, without any further personal reflection on my observations about the man, I will get to the meat of this article and let you decide if you think it’s a good idea to re-elect him in August.
I asked him what he wanted people to know about Athens in general, and his job in particular. “What we have been blessed with as citizens of Athens is a truly great community,” he said, “and it is a privilege to serve them.” In addition, he told me that Athens “is the fastest growing city in Northern Alabama, and I hear statements from ‘newbies’ to our town all the time about how beautiful and safe it is, how people holler at you when you go in and out the door.”
He continued, “What people need to understand is that the City of Athens has to be run like a large corporation; it is a big business, with budgets in the millions that need to be spent wisely and accounted for with integrity.” To that end, the books are open to anyone who wants to wade through them, of course with the request that the full context of accounts and expenditures be understood and acknowledged.
“Our job is to provide good government and services, and I always have the same five basic areas of concern that must all be addressed if I am going to do my job.” They are:
- Public Safety-“That is the most important. If the town isn’t safe, the rest doesn’t matter.” These days that also includes having in place a social media service that is “timely, true, and accurate.”
- Jobs and Economic Development- “People need to be able to support their families, and several businesses have come to Athens in the last year, with more on the way.”
- Education- “If our kids are going to live well and be productive, we must be vigilant about giving them a quality education. After all, they’re the ones who will be running this town after we’re gone.”
- Recreation-“Our city needs to be a place where people not only work hard, but have the opportunity to play well, and to have safe, affordable things to do with their families.”
- Quality of Life-“My goal is to make Athens so attractive that even if kids move away from this city for years, they’ll come back and settle here because it is home.”
I asked him about what has been accomplished on his “watch,” and the things about which he is the most pleased are the new fire stations and the influx of new industries. “We have also been able to put money into paving Lindsay Lane, have been awarded a grant to pave Lucas Ferry Road, Sanderfer Road, and Nuclear Plant Road, which is an evacuation route for Brown’s Ferry.”
What are his concerns and challenges? “First of all, that the community comes together. The natural disasters we have recently faced made us stronger than we had been for many years, but that needs to continue. And my charge as Mayor is to build a team that can give great service.” The other thing he mentioned to me with his usual sense of humor is the importance of tracking revenue streams. “Huntsville is creeping westward, and I don’t want to wake up one day surrounded.” He added, “We need to be proactive about protecting the interests of the City of Athens.” And finally he told me, “I’ll do this job to the best of my ability as long as I am supposed to. I am asking the people of Athens to get out and vote for the candidate of their choice on August 28th. I would like you to consider me to be your candidate for Mayor so we can make Athens the best place in Alabama to grow up, live and work in, and then retire here.” By: Ali Elizabeth Turner