What Makes Ronnie Roll: Caps, Gowns, Fixing Roads All Over Town

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

May is always an emotional time; no matter how many times you hear “Pomp and Circumstance” play at high school graduation ceremonies, there is a sense of relief, triumph, sadness, anticipation, joy, and wistfulness. It is no different for the mayor and the staff involved with the Mayor’s Youth Commission. “We have 18 seniors and one homeschooler,” said Mayor Ronnie, meaning the ones he was going to have to say goodbye to for now. “It’s emotional to let ‘em go,” he added. The mayor went on to tell me that one of the things that is different about “kids these days” is that far more of them are talking about going to technical schools. We have so many more opportunities for them now,” he said. Mayor Ronnie figured that they all had “senioritis,” so his plan was to have April be the last meeting of the Mayor’s Youth Commission. However, at the kids’ insistence, they met one last time in May.

At that meeting, they did a mock City Council meeting. Holly Hollman prepared a script for each role, and they included a belligerent citizen and someone who would not stop interrupting. They rapped the gavel, did the pledge, the invocation, and debated whether or not to add one dollar to the total bill of hotel patrons per stay. They voted 3-2 in favor of it.

The Impact Club, which is the Rotary’s youth group, did a Color Run for clean water on May 11. Their project is clean water, both in our state and around the world.

We moved on to the subject of streets, no one’s favorite. “It takes a long time to get caught up,” said Mayor Ronnie. One of the things that I learned is that when you dig a street up, whether it’s for laying fiber optic cable, increasing water pressure, or fixing potholes, you have to let the land sit for awhile or the new paving will not settle. “I know the streets are a rut board right now,” he said. As a result of the once cent tax passed in 2012, the City of Athens now has money designated for these kinds of repairs.

“$1.3 million goes into getting the streets fixed every year,” he said, and added, “Jefferson Street is going to get paved on June 1.” That was welcome news, and of course, the conversation had to move to growth in our area.

Mayor Ronnie then showed me an article citing a statement made recently by ACRE, which stands for University of Alabama’s Alabama Center for Real Estate. “Athens is number one in the state for new construction.” I just shook my head, so grateful that we have leadership at the City and County level that lay awake nights considering the best way for us to handle the growth that is upon us.

There was just one thing left to do, and that was to pray. So we did, and once again, it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner