A Letter From City Manager: C. Seth Summer

What a wet and wild winter! The signs of spring have arrived and are a welcome site. As I walk and ride throughout the “Friendly City,” I am thrilled to see the results of the fall leaves fertilizing the growth of the now visible daffodils, tulips, and forsythia. The warmth of the sun after the cold, damp winter also helps to elevate my spirit. In November, I toiled in the soil with my children, planting 128 bulbs that are now owering and sharing love with all who pass our home.

With the signs of life and of God’s promise for renewal shining all around us today, I have also been enthusiastically encouraged by the signs exhibited in fellow Athenians. During a period of time when fewer people are involved with community processes than ever before, our community is stepping up to the plate in big ways. The Athens Thrives partnership has sparked discussions and actions to improve our downtown with murals, cultural districting, a new pocket park, and a vision for a higher quality of life. The LITE House at Tennessee Wesleyan is providing training, coworking space, and resources to our creative-, technical-, and entrepreneurial-minded citizens. The Main Street Athens and Downtown Business Association merger joins the strength of the small business private sector with the tools of the State’s Economic Development Of ce into a nationally accredited program. The opening of the Colloms Campus Center and the upcoming University Square on College Street are new spaces indoors and outdoors that our university is using to invite the public to share. Civic Saturday celebrations are new quarterly come-togethers where citizens join in sharing their thoughts and dreams about our republic and our community.

Dr. Brene Brown, a Texas storyteller, wrote, “I de ne connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

All of this activity – wonderful, wonderful activity! These together are the catalyst for joining with our neighbors for fun and the opportunity, on occasion, to have brave discussions about the major challenges our community faces. Of the utmost importance is to set the appropriate frame for discourse. We are not acting with or against wicked people, but instead we are working together to solve wicked problems. If we remove the inherent human fallacy of simplistically calling another person wicked, we are able to look at the issues at face value and evolve from adversarial to collaborative discourse.

Like the bulbs planted in the cool soil several months ago that are now boldly in bloom, the time is ripe for Athenians to take advantage of our rights and duties in civil society to actively engage in creating a greater, more beautiful community. Be courageous. Together, we will move Athens forward.

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