What Makes Ronnie Roll: We Can Do Better

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

We met two days before the annual State of the City Address, and Mayor Ronnie was putting the finishing touches on his presentation that would be held at Athens State University. The theme was “Athens: Living Her Story,” and the distinction that he wanted to make was that this was about far more than telling our story as a community, it would be an invitation to engage, both outwardly and inwardly. In essence, “living her story” is about making an already wonderful town even more so, and for the sake of this article, with the hope of inspiring a city and countywide movement, if you will, that has “We Can Do Better” as its collective banner.

The first time I interviewed Mayor Ronnie for this column was back in the summer of 2011, when the old green marble City Hall and fire station stood on the location of our present City Hall. He came out to greet me and then took me to meet other staff members. You know what he did without missing a beat? He stooped down to pick up some fast food trash that was on the lawn of City Hall. “I hate litter,” he said, and I told him I agreed. In my house, growing up in the ‘50s, littering was a “capital offense.” So was telling someone to shut up, and I guess it’s safe to say that times have changed a bit.

“Our town is trashy, and litter is terrible in the city,” said the mayor. What had really gotten to him was that very morning there had been training at Leak City that had been attended by people from 22 states, from the Northeast to Texas to California. And while for years Leak City attendees have complimented our city on its great hospitality, it was frankly embarrassing to see such a terrific town so trashed out, especially on Hwy 31 and the other major thoroughfares. Although he didn’t exactly say it, it kind of reminded me of how parents feel when important company comes over and the kids act up.

The mayor did say, in all fairness, that sometimes trash blows off of construction project trucks, or unbagged trash blows around when garbage trucks to do their rounds. But often it seems that people litter because they don’t think it will matter. Well, it does!

We discussed some ideas for putting “teeth” in our litter laws, and some possible incentives for teams taking on clean-up projects. There is already a great deal of work being done, as you will see in Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful Executive Director Claire Tribble’s “Clean and Green” article, and this ain’t goin’ away. “People need to be change agents, and this is one way they can do it,” Mayor Ronnie said. He then added, “It’s time for spring cleaning.” There was only one thing left to do, and that was to pray. So, we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner