What Makes Ronnie Roll: The Challenge Of Growing 30%

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie and the City Hall crew “rolled” back into the office on January 2, and the prevailing theme amongst the staff is that 2018 is going to be “an awesome year.” Holly Hollman, Communications Director and Grant Specialist for the City of Athens, sat in with us for a bit; together we took a look back at 2017 and a big look forward to the year ahead. It is the 200th birthday of Limestone County, which will be celebrated in February, as well as the City of Athens, which will be celebrated in November. Between now and then, we will have many occasions and opportunities to “party hearty” with regard to our amazing abode here in North Alabama.

The brief look back at 2017 was about enjoying what got finished, including being in the black by a million dollars, as well as what got started. The remodeled Limestone County Courthouse held its first session of court on January 3, 2017, and the colored lighting system, as well as the carols being played on the sound system during this past holiday, made the season on the Square even more festive. The new Athens High School is coming along well, and ground has been broken on the Athens Bible School building on Hwy 31. It is the 75th year for the Bible School, and the building will be beautiful. The Scout House renovation project is moving right along, and the Chamber of Commerce is going to get new digs in their same location on Beaty Street. Approval was also granted to build a new Parks and Recreation Center. Construction of sidewalks, repair of streets, and the razing of condemned properties “kept on rollin’.” We also gave thanks for the guys who were out in this frigid weather climbing poles and making sure the power got back on quickly.

On a personal note, Mayor Ronnie says he feels like he is “almost 100%” recovered from his recent intestinal surgery, and is grateful that the growths in question were benign. Having lost several family members to cancer, the unveiling of this year’s Relay For Life T-shirt, which has incorporated our bicentennial into the logo, meant a great deal to him. The shirts go on sale soon, and were designed by Holly Hollman and Kelly Cain.

For the first quarter of 2018, there is a major event occurring every month. January 15 is Martin Luther King’s birthday as well as the Essay Contest, and please remember that Monday, January 8 is the deadline to get your entries in. For more information, see the flyer on page 24. On January 31, Mayor Ronnie gives the State of the City address. More details on that to come.

February will be the month that Limestone County celebrates its 200th birthday as “the County that is older than the State.” Their party will be held at the Limestone County Event Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, you can call Michelle Williamson at 256-233-6400, or visit the Limestone County Bicentennial page on Facebook.

Poke Sallet Follies will be in March, and the theme is “The Book of Athens.” It will be under the capable leadership of City Councilman Frank Travis, and will highlight our 200-year journey as Athenians. The annual Boy Scouts of America Breakfast will be in April.

We moved on to a happy subject that the mayor couldn’t really discuss, and by that I mean the fact that there are a number of industrial and retail corporations courting us, and as always, the details must remain under wraps until the ink is dry. If these entities decide that Athens is the “match made in Heaven,” the result could not only be a few thousand jobs but, according to the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, could conservatively mean that by 2040, we’ll experience at least a 30% growth in our city/county population, and most likely more. Growing pains are no laughing matter, and one of the things that Mayor Ronnie spends a lot of energy on is planning for growth. “We need to pull smart people to plan well,” he said. Everything has to be considered: water, sanitation, power, streets, public safety, infrastructure in general, and quality of life specifically. We have seen examples in our area of what happens when there is explosive growth without a cohesive plan; so right now, this is what keeps him “up at night,” as the saying goes.

The only thing that remained for us to do was pray, mostly for wisdom and strength to meet the challenges of 2018 as well as thank God for our abundant blessings, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner