We have now spent ten “Ronnies” on Gary McCaleb’s excellent book, The Gift Of Community, and both of us agreed we could start all over again and have plenty of new material. McCaleb has done an outstanding job of researching and explaining what makes a community “tick,” and the following 12 points serve to crystallize what we are striving towards as citizens of Athens, AL: a truly marvelous city.
- A clear identity-This means knowing who we are and where we ALL have come from.
- Positive change-A big challenge for any city manager is knowing what to change, and what
to leave alone.
- Constant renewal-Having a commitment to deal with inevitable decay effectively.
- Attractive center-In Athens, we have the Courthouse Square and so much more.
- Congenial design-Where people can feel the friendliness of the layout and accessibility of a city.
- Planned celebration-Everything from Grease, Fiddlers’, Storytellers’, Earth Day, and the holidays.
- Visible future-Probably one of the hardest and most important jobs of a leader is to keep hope
for the future alive and vibrant.
- Inclusive participation-One example would be the Mayor’s Youth Commission.
- External energy-What we can draw upon from other cities.
- Disciplined balance-Enough rugged individualism and tribal thinking to glue the town together
- Purposeful circulation-Where citizens and leaders keep the pulse of the 2 or 3 most pressing
Issues. This is especially challenging for leaders, as everyone thinks their issue is paramount.
- Passionate leaders-People who genuinely love their communities, and it shows.
What is the “big vision” of Athens? Well, it is only 4 years until we celebrate our bi-centennial, and it is never too early to start planning for an event that encompasses all 12 points. In addition, we have the new public library, the much-needed renovation of the Houston Library, and the completion of the Trinity Project, as well as various projects at and associated with ASU. We need to teach our history and our identity both to our progeny as well as those who come to visit or make Athens their new hometown.
Mayor Ronnie, after we reviewed the 12 points, said, “How quickly we can go backwards.” And it’s true. There are many things that keep him up at night, and there is one that makes him feel a touch testy: litter. I have personally seen him make a point of picking up the trash thrown down by others we’ll call thoughtless, but I did not know until recently that he actually goes out to neighborhoods and does the same thing. Why? Because he loves our town, plain and simple. He agonizes over striking the balance between having a conservative approach to government and still promoting growth. And I know his mantra to be “quality of life” for all Athenians. Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor perhaps said it best when he stated in McCaleb’s book, “Surely, when human lives are involved, indifference is not an answer. There MUST be somebody who cares.” Being that somebody is a great deal of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner