The term “servant leadership” gets bandied about these days in everything from business publications to the pulpit. I asked Mayor Marks if he would invite Athens City Council President Jimmy Gill to join us for our interview time, because I wanted to get an idea of how these guys work together to serve our community, and specifically how they viewed leadership styles and their roles as leaders.
Jimmy Gill has been serving on the City Council since 1992, and is in his 6th term. A lifelong resident of Athens as well as a Class of ’66 Trinity High School graduate, Jimmy has seen some “wild times,” especially during the ‘60s and the Civil Rights era. .Jimmy is also a cancer survivor and works part time at People’s Funeral Home. He’s a master BBQ-er, and according to Mayor Marks, “gives back to the community like few people do.” Jimmy has actually been Mayor of Athens, (serving when Dan Williams was out for health reasons,) involved in Relay for Life, the Birdie Thornton Center, and Ronnie says, “He’s sharp, works hard, and knows what’s going on.” I myself have seen him stand up for the truth when it would have been way easier to lay low and let things just pass over, and have admired him for his courage in doing so.
“Jimmy, how would you describe your leadership style?” I asked. He thought for a minute and said, “I listen, think it through, go to prayer with God, and then make what I think is the right decision.” I liked the fact that the first thing on his list is that he listens, and also that he prays. Jimmy and Ronnie have been friends for years, having met through Ronnie’s brother Claude when Jimmy and Claude worked together for the same company. I have wondered, knowing that they are both friends, colleagues, and men of deep faith, just how they
handle the inevitable disagreements that arise when trying to govern well or just maintain relationships in general. “What do you guys do when you disagree?” I asked them. Jimmy spoke first. “We agree to disagree, and then move on. We have disagreed, and we get over it.” Ronnie seconded him. Jimmy added, “If you are doing things for the right reasons, things have a way of working out.”
We talked about the need to be able to trust each other’s hearts, even when we didn’t see eye to eye, and to stand strong on principles. Jimmy talked about how important it is to remember that every City Council member, any public servant, for that matter, “takes an oath on the Bible, and it don’t matter if you are black, white, red, or green, you gotta do the right thing.” Ronnie added, “It’s one thing to talk, and another to talk and walk.” Talk and walk, I think, is an excellent way to describe what makes for good leaders. And one thing I know, that’s the only way Ronnie and Jimmy desire to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner