What Makes Ronnie Roll: Getting 2018 Grads Ready To Enjoy The Ride

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It was one of those unpredictable May Monday mornings—beautiful and exceptionally clear, with storms on the way. Once again we shook our heads at how the year had flown; indeed, how time seems to be flying by at warp speed, Mr. Zulu!

The weekend had been fruitful, and at the Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful-sponsored community Trash Attack, Mayor Ronnie, a woman, and her son managed to pick up six bags of trash in 90 minutes. “There were whiskey bottles, all kinds of junk,” said the mayor, and I think it was particularly annoying that that stuff had been pitched out near the cemetery. I know from experience that littering is something that gets under his skin. In fact, the very first time I interviewed him, which was in the old City Hall building, I met him outside as he was picking up litter off the City Hall lawn.

“So many things are happening this week,” said the mayor. Monday was the beginning of Rodeo Week, as well as political forum prior to the June 5th primary election; Tuesday was the Chamber Coffee as well as the rodeo street dance; Thursday is the Slack Rodeo; Friday is the Special Needs Rodeo in the morning; and then Friday night and Saturday night are the main event—The Limestone County Sheriff’s Rodeo.

“It’s graduation,” Mayor Marks said, marveling that May is here. “The 2018 group has been great,” he added, referring to the soon-to-be-graduating Mayor’s Youth Commission. One of the things about which Mayor Marks is most pleased is that the idea of a commission is catching on around the state. There have been several mayors who have contacted him about the “how-tos,” and he hopes to be able to share with more of them at the annual League of Municipalities meeting for which he was preparing. He is honored that he has been asked to be on the League’s Executive Committee.

It is encouraging that other entities also have youth commissions, including the Sheriff’s Department, the Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Tom Sisk of the Limestone County schools – all have a vision for preparing our kids to lead well.

I asked Mayor Ronnie, “What is your favorite thing to teach?” “Government,” he said quickly. “It’s not theirs, though,” he chuckled. What were the Youth Commission’s favorite activities this year? “They really enjoyed going out to Leak City, learning about firefighting, and gas leaks,” he said. High Cotton Arts also sponsored hands-on events that brought out their creative streak. In addition, they worked for a day at Lowe’s, where they learned how to give customer service, as well as scan in inventory. They “went to jail” for the day, which hopefully will keep them out of there, and they loved the shooting range, learning about what it is like to be a police officer. “There are always certain things that make their eyes sparkle, and other things, not so much,” the mayor said
“It’s always tough to say goodbye, and I love it when they come back to visit,” said Mayor Ronnie. “We asked them to critique us as well as themselves, and that process is going on right now,” he added. “It’s graduation time, and that means, as we have been saying, ‘it’s time to enjoy the ride.’” He then showed me a quote by Danny Kaye that sums it all up: “Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.” Then there were only two things left to do: pray, and then Ronnie rolled.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner