Earlier this week, Mayor Ronnie and several City Hall staff members had the opportunity to attend the annual Alabama League of Municipalities conference, and this year it was held in Huntsville. As a bit of background, there are 460 towns and cities in our state, and 449 of them belong to the League. Over 900 people were present, and there were exhibits, breakout sessions, superb speeches, and even a guy who did an impersonation of Barney Fife.
Mayor Ronnie is almost always “fired up” when he comes in for our interviews, but today he was positively soaring. One of the best speakers from the conference was a fellow by the name of Jim Hunt, who is with the National League of Municipalities. Jim is going to be coming out with a book soon, and I do believe what Mr. Hunt has to say, and how it has inspired our Mayor, will end up being a rich series.
Mr. Hunt gave a presentation which served in part as the title of this Ronnie. He talked about making sure your city had ZING! What is ZING? It is all the “astonishing, striking, surprising, brilliant, stunning, impressive, overwhelming, staggering, sensational” things that can be used by visitors and residents alike to describe your city. We have so many, but one honor that was granted to Athens this year is that we are #1 in all of Alabama for industrial recruitment. That is especially encouraging when we are surrounded by the exact opposite elsewhere.
The League of Municipalities serves as a support system for cities and towns so that they might become their best “selves.” They do so in a number of ways. “They have an excellent legal staff that is available to us all the time,” said Mayor Ronnie. They also have a similar staff that helps with the ins and outs of finance and regulations. Ronnie also said that he was grateful for the legal and financial staff that we have right here serving the City of Athens. There is also an outstanding League staff down in Montgomery that has been of help to us. Our Mayor serves on several League committees, and has been asked once again to serve this year. They include the executive, legislative, and finance committees, and it’s something he enjoys greatly. “During the year, we come up with proposals to make legislative statements,” he said, and is experience in Montgomery years ago has been most helpful.
One of the roles of the League is to function as a watchdog with regard to Federal and State programs, mandates and programs, whether good or bad, and to “get the word out” to League members so they can protect and/or strengthen their respective towns and cities, and respond well to what comes down the pike.
Another League role is to give top notch leadership training to city employees so they can be better at running the city. The League sponsored opportunities at the conference to make PSAs, or Public Service Announcements. Mayor Ronnie did one on texting and driving, and another on bullying. Those will be aired soon, so watch for social media and the Communications Office to announce the venue and broadcast times.
What else “brings the ZING?” “Attitude,” he told me as he showed me the slide that gave a simple command: “Focus on your city’s potential instead of its limitations.” I especially liked the use of the word “limitations” as opposed to “problems.” Even that is a more positive way of approaching what can be done to empower neighborhoods to bring their own ZING, to cause light to triumph over darkness.
Mr. Hunt also asked a powerful question, actually, two of them: What is your brand? What do you want people to remember? Our brand is Classic. Southern. Character. We possess all three in abundance, and speaking for self as someone who has only been here for 16 years, we also exude life and all its possibilities. I love Athens so deeply because it is Ama-ZING, and I want people to remember our history and all the progress we have made on so many fronts. There’s much to do, and much that has been done.
Our time “zinged” by, and was over. Mayor Ronnie’s heart was full, we made our next appointment, we prayed, and then, once again it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner