We have just come away from a successful 1st annual Grease Festival, and Mayor Ronnie and City Council President Jimmy Gill spent a long, happy day frying up bologna sandwiches and greeting folks. I asked him why he felt that right out of the gate “Grease” seemed so wonderfully “slick” for a first time event. “Everybody did their part,” he said. “It was really well organized,” he added. Then he told me the following story. “Back in 1961, the night before his first space mission, Alan Shephard went out to the launch site because he couldn’t sleep. He saw a light on, and decided to see if anyone was around. There was, and it was just one guy who was working. Essentially they asked each other why they were there in the middle of the night, and the guy, who never became a household name in Huntsville, let alone Athens, simply said, “I’m here to make sure my part works.”
Mayor Ronnie, as he always does, poured that lesson into his granddaughters later in the weekend. One of them is on a cheer squad, and he encouraged her, (and through this article, us,) to “make sure your part works.” If we are going to keep our city “alive,” we need to have new blood, and new life pouring through town in the form of both ideas and involvement. Otherwise, we’ll go stagnant.
One of the ways to keep our city alive is to keep our kids alive, literally. While we don’t like to think of the possibility of a lethal school event (such as what occured at UAH or Discovery Middle School) ever happening in Athens, the fact is, no community is immune. Last year Mayor Ronnie sent me to a seminar conducted by Phil Chalmers, who is considered the nation’s expert in teen/school shootings, and it was all at once chilling, eye opening, and hope giving. Phil has since trained some local people to be seminar presenters, and Cam Bucy of Self Defense Solutions is going to, (through a joint venture with the Athens Schools, Athens Police and City Hall,) bring training to kids, parents, first responders and school personnel. “An event like what happened at Discovery would be devastating,” said the Mayor, “and if we can learn how to prevent one by educating our community, it would be an excellent investment.” The next question he fired off at me, and symbolically, Athens, was, “How committed are you to making a change with and for our kids?” That question packs a punch, and is worthy of a prudent answer.
In addition to public safety, one of his ongoing concerns is quality of life, most specifically here in reference to leadership in the city. I know we have seen a long election season, and we aren’t through it yet, but I can tell you that folks not bothering to vote is a pet peeve of his. So, if you live in District 1, please take the time to vote on October 9th, and everybody please do so in November. Remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain!
Lastly, Mayor Ronnie has a real concern about future revenue streams, as does the team leader of any organization, civic or commercial. “I am doing everything I know to keep our taxes down and still provide the services that are expected of a well managed city,” he said. I don’t envy his position at all, and now that you know more of what makes Ronnie roll, perhaps you’ll remember him in your prayers.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner