What Makes Ronnie Roll: “Be Like Barney!”

May is always a time when adults are dealing with lumps in their throats at the prospect of grads getting ready to fly the coop, while kids have “senior-itis,” the “I-am-almost-graduated-and-can’t-stand-to-do-one-more-assignment” disease. Emotions run high, gratitude runs deep, and this month is invariably bittersweet for everyone involved.

That includes Mayor Ronnie as well as Holly Hollman, City of Athens Communications Specialist, who have just completed the fourth year at the helm of the Mayor’s Youth Commission. This year there were homeschooled students, as well as students from public and private schools, and I had the privilege of reading a few of the thank you cards written by the kids to them both; now I was the one dealing with a lump in my throat. “This is what makes it all worth it,” said Holly, and the Mayor agreed. There is much to celebrate, not the least of which is that a total of five students from the MYC received scholarships, not only for doing well academically, but for the high level of quality service given to our community during the past school year.

They told me about the last Youth Commission meeting, which was graced by the presence of City Attorney Shane Black, complete with an object lesson in the form of a “magic coloring book.” Since he was a kid, Shane has been the proud owner of a faith-based coloring book that when flipped one direction shows blank pages, flipped another direction shows pictures with no color, and flipped a third direction shows the same pictures in full color. The message he left with the kids? “It’s up to you what is going on your pages.” Mayor Ronnie said, “I have no idea how he made that thing work, but the kids loved it.”

Mayor Ronnie went on to mention that Athens Bible School has five female graduates this year who have completed high school degrees as well as two community college degrees each, due to the advantage of dual-enrollment. Randy Adams, principal at ABS says, “These girls just saved their parents around $50,000.” Athens Bible School will be constructing a new school on Hwy 31 just across from the new Athens High School.

Mayor Ronnie was asked to give the Athens State University 2017 Commencement Address, and he drew deeply from two of his favorite philosophers: Peter Kageyama, author of For The Love Of Cities, and the Mayor’s alter ego, Barney Fife. He wanted to give an address that was both substantive as well as a little bit whimsical, so he gave the grads three main things to remember and do:

1. Be in love with your community. Find things to love about us and work to build that love.
2. Be passionate in life. Or, stated a different way, “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily…unto the Lord.”
3. Be like Barney. In a wonderful book called Barney Fife’s Guide To Life, Love, and Self-Defense, the endearing deputy says the following: “Folks often talk about what makes a person special. You know—what makes him stand out from the crowd….It’s more the way a fella handles himself, how he treats others and if you can depend on him. As you can tell, this thing about character is awfully hard to put a handle on. Some folks sum all this stuff about character and dignity up by calling it ‘class.’ That’s OK. Whatever you call it it’s fine so long as you understand that it’s what makes good folks good.”

We all heaved a sigh, one of great satisfaction and a touch of sadness. Then we prayed, and Ronnie rolled.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner