Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks has a lot on his plate, but that’s not that unusual.
In his first term as leader of the largest municipality in the county, he’s witnessed the effect of Mother Nature’s fury while trying to stay on top of the day-to-day number crunching and long-term planning. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also the ultimate supervisor of a staff of about 300 city employees.
A former city councilman and city council president, Marks took over for former Mayor Dan Williams when Williams was elected to serve as a state representative. After 14 months on the job, he plans to seek re-election in August.
“We’re going to run for another term,” he said. “We’re having fun.”
In looking back at 2011, Marks said the issue that sticks out most in his mind is the city’s response to the devastating April 27 tornadoes. He was in a dentist’s chair at 11:30 a.m. that morning as a wall cloud moved over the city but did not spawn a tornado.
“I was just sitting there and things just got really dark,” he said, still grateful the city did not receive a direct strike.
Southern and eastern Limestone County weren’t so lucky. Four people were killed, subdivisions were destroyed and power was knocked out to most of the county. Marks said he was proud of the city’s emergency response to those outside the city limits.
“We can always talk about buildings and those things, but when people are hurting and the community is hurting, you have to take care of those folks,” he said. “I would say we pulled together our relief efforts quicker than any other community in the state.”
He recently attending a meeting where he learned more about the devastating impact on towns across the state, including Phil Campbell and Cordova, both of which were destroyed by the tornadoes.
“Cordova lost everything; they don’t even have a grocery store,” he said. “Thank God that tornado missed us.