Ronnie Marks has just been elected to the position of Mayor with a landslide victory, and true to form has both “hit the ground running,” and is anxious to “put the election behind us and get back to work.” There is much to do in our town, even while things are going well over all, his time is necessarily divided between the tasks at hand and planning for what is ahead.
When I asked him about his thoughts on the election, he paused, and made the point that he was “so grateful for Athens’ vote of support.” He explained that all at once he felt “honored, humbled, challenged, and excited.” He added, “Lots of emotions, lots of work to do.” Although we often chat about what is going on in the national political scene, I was struck by the fact that at the time after the local election, the national race was clearly in second place in comparison to all that was needing to be addressed on the city scene here at home.
The love of the Mayor for this town, his understanding of its history, its people and its potential has always been a comfort to me. He says, “I love this job, the people, and the project management. I want to put the period after project management, and getting the job done well.”
Most of the time when we finish an interview, I feel as though I have received an education, and this time I learned about some of the challenges of retail recruitment vs. industrial recruitment. We in Athens are both blessed by and aware of the fact that in the past year there have been some significant victories in courting industry and bringing more of it to our town. We also know that we need more. Some of the reason why it is easier to get industry interested in setting up shop here is that the regulations and tax incentives for industry are much more regulated and uniform than those of retail. Things that would attract retail businesses in terms of incentives are more nebulous, and fall under the purview of private investors, and while it is a reasonable thing to want to offer incentives to potential retail prospects, it is also complicated. There ends up being a gap between the two, one that is going to be spanned by people working together in an equitable manner.
Several situations are before the Mayor and City Council, and prayerful, responsible solutions are being sought. For example, in places where City and County government overlap, what is the best way to streamline? “The people don’t want a growing government, and we need to ask ourselves how we can streamline without compromising services or cause a loss of jobs.” One of the examples he mentioned is that of garbage. Is it the best approach to go to single stream recycling? “It certainly has worked in other cities, and we are looking in to it.”
As always, we prayed at the end, and he reminded me to tell you that his belief in building Athens from the inside out through using the team approach is an idea that he both embraces, and about which he is unwavering. “People expect us, the city government, to do the right thing,” he said. So, I guess it’s time to “git ‘er dun,” and pray for blessing and wisdom upon our leaders in the days that lie ahead.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner