By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The subtitle of this 3rd chapter in Steve Gilliland’s book called, Hide Your Goat, is “The Wisdom To Discern Where You Are Heading,” a poignant reference to the fact that as soon as we finished this interview, Mayor Marks was off to the beginning of the 5th year of the Mayor’s Youth Commission.
We took a moment to reflect how quickly the time had passed, and how hard it was to believe that some of the original kids were now in grad school. Interestingly, later in the day at the grocery store, I ran into one of my favorite kids from the first year. He said he’d been thinking about calling up Holly Hollman, who has helped the mayor since the beginning, to ask if he could come and speak to this year’s group. The young man wanted them to know how much the Mayor’s Youth Commission had affected his life for the good, and I told him I thought that would mean a great deal to Mayor Ronnie, Holly, and any others who had been a part of that inaugural endeavor.
Back at City Hall, Mayor Ronnie chuckled as he told me what it had been like to be grilled by a bunch of Cub Scouts, specifically Cubs from Pack # 236 who meet at Isom’s Chapel Methodist Church. They asked him all kinds of things such as, “Are you going to build an aquatic center?” Or, there was, “How do you deal with procrastination?” He had wondered if that question had been coached, and he noticed that some of the boys had actual notebooks full of questions and raised their hands incessantly. However, the question that meant the most to the mayor was, “What are you the most proud of?” He told them, “It’s not City Hall, or anything you can see; it’s impacting the lives of young people. When you see young people have an understanding of good government and how it works, helping them to understand that a city is a business that needs to be run well, and teach them how to work together and serve others, that is something to be proud of.”
The Mayor’s Youth Commission was the first of its kind amongst the Alabama State League of Municipalities, an organization of the 660 cities and towns and mayors that comprise Alabama the Beautiful. Mayor Ronnie is the president of the division for North Alabama, and just recently found out that other cities had started up their own Youth Commissions. Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar, Montevallo Mayor Hollie Campbell Cost, and Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon have followed Mayor Ronnie’s example, and now the League of Municipalities wants him to teach all the rest of the Mayors in the state how to do the same. The League’s request was the perfect answer for the Cub Scout’s question: “What are you most proud of?”
Then we took some time to talk about several hurting folks in our dear town. “So many are fighting cancers and other diseases,” he said. So, we prayed, asked for “the wisdom to discern where you are heading,” and then it was time for Ronnie to roll….to the Youth Commission.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner