By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When I caught up with Mayor Ronnie on Saturday to confirm our appointment for his bi-weekly column, it was literally from across the fence at his home while he did one of the best things you can do during a time like this besides social distancing — gardening. His grandson Quinton and some young neighbor friends zoomed in and out of the gate, and I was glad to see the mayor was doing something that has been proven to reduce stress. There is a natural compound in dirt that closely resembles some of the compounds present in anti-depressants, but without all the dreadful side effects; and that is one of the many reasons why people love to get dirt under their fingernails. Sun, sweat, friends, and flowers all from six feet out. What’s not to love?
We laughed about the possibility of meeting on Monday at City Hall in the Boardroom. That is one large room, with a very long conference table, and we thought about him sitting at one end and me at the other while we hollered at each other. We were going to have veteran reporter and City of Athens Communication Specialist Holly Hollman take a picture of us practicing social distancing for the illustration. Then we realized that really the best and safest way to conduct the interview was over the phone. “COVID-19 continues to disrupt, and we’ve got to stick together,” he said.
Monday rolled around, and as we chatted, pretty quickly the theme of “Stay Tuned” emerged as the title of this edition of Ronnie. The mayor has been in briefings nearly every day as a member of Governor Ivey’s Coronavirus Task Force, and keeping up as well with updates from Dr. Scott Harris, the Alabama State Public Health officer. The mayor has been “staying tuned” in with them so he can be current for us.
Other mayors have reached out to our mayor “just to talk,” and he has done the same. He says that the conclusion that they always come to is, “We are going to get through this together.” And, Mayor Ronnie emphasized the need to stay positive. We talked about the Mayor’s Youth Commission messages to the community and the impact the project has had on the members as they have had to adjust to the changes COVID-19 has made in their lives. Things like no prom, no graduation ceremonies for now, and the abrupt ending to the school year haven’t been easy for anyone, but one of the kids said it so well by encouraging us to “Have gratitude for the life presented you.”
“Any final thoughts, Mr. Mayor?” I asked. “Stay tuned, because it’s gets going to get better if we stick together. Keep supporting local businesses,” he said, and then added, “It’s time to hunker down, and it’s time to pray.” So, pray we did, and then once again it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner