Week seven in our Leadership Perspectives series spotlights Mayor Ronnie Marks and Athens, Alabama. Athens, a town of 22,000, sits west of Huntsville and Madison on I-65 and is the county seat for Limestone County.
I was amazed at the breadth of experience Mayor Marks brings to the Mayor’s office. He is a Vietnam Vet, holds a Master’s Degree, has been a contractor for Lockheed, worked as an HR manager at both the county and state level, and has served two tenures as a city councilman. Add to that board seats on the Athens-Limestone County Hospital and the Athens Planning Commission and you realize this man understands the big picture.
Chairman Marks took over as Mayor Marks in November 2010 when Dan Williams, after 18 years of service as Athens Mayor, stepped down to take a State Representative seat. Two years later Marks ran for and won the Athens Mayor seat, promising to control expenses and address the needs of additional revenue to support quality of life issues.
Since his re-election, Mayor Marks and the Athens City Council have addressed their budget. They determined they needed to raise their sales tax to support the basic needs the city is responsible for supplying. I found it very interesting that like Madison, they were concerned with Huntsville’s westward expansion which will limit their ability to generate sales tax. Also interesting was that Athens will not directly put the additional sales tax into the general fund “black hole” but rather they will put it in special funds to support roads, Capital Improvement, and road maintenance.
As with all of the other interviewees Mayor Marks also recognizes the significance Redstone Arsenal plays in our economic development success in the Tennessee Valley. He wants Athens to be a part of the discussions and meetings and he is committed to supporting the future efforts of our BRAC teams.
As I close I am confident Athens is positioned well for the future. They will benefit from the growth of Redstone Arsenal and the traffic I-65 brings by their town each day. Their decision to raise sales tax will allow them the ability to service older roads and support the construction of new ones. My hope is they will be able to work with Huntsville, Madison, and Decatur as Limestone County moves from primarily “rural” to a built-out metropolis. Having listened to Mayor Marks’ game plan and learned more about his experience I am confident they have leadership that will make positive things happen.
Watch this segment of Leadership Perspectives in three parts: