Just when I thought the great rift between me and the city manager might be bridged, I get a sobering gut-punch.

Back story: Rome City Manager Sammy Rich and I give each other a hard time every chance we get. He thinks I’m annoying and I think he’s balding. But we put our differences aside for the good of the community we both love.

A couple weeks ago I get a call from him, out of the blue, and he explains that he and a census committee are trying to organize a motorcade through Rome that will bring attention to the 2020 census. They want people to know how important it is to fill out their census forms on paper or online or by phone.

Now this is important because a proper census count for Rome and Floyd County means that when federal dollars are being divvied up, our community gets the most money possible for lots of programs including school lunches, highway construction and education.

And did you know that as a result of population changes between 2000 and 2010, eight states gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 10 states had fewer seats in the U.S. House of Representatives? That’s why it’s so important for communities to turn in an accurate census count.

So after learning all that, of course I wanted to be a part of the census motorcade.

And I was ecstatic that the city manager and I could take a break from being arch-rivals and work together for the good of the community. He said that he just really thought my presence in the motorcade would go a long way in bringing attention to the event. Plus I’d be riding in his own truck at the front of the motorcade.

Well I was so flattered. How could I say no to that? I agreed immediately.

Mr. Rich told me to meet him in the parking lot of city hall and we’d go from there. I felt so fancy, y’all.

So I get to the parking lot and here comes Mr. Rich and Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson walking toward me. Big smiles on their faces. They’re clearly very happy to see me.

However, as soon as we get to Mr. Rich’s truck — to which is attached a large sign encouraging folks to complete their census forms — I see that he has a piece of paper in his hand. He walks to the passenger side of the truck and slaps the piece of paper on the inside of the windshield directly in front of where I would sit.

This flimsy piece of paper with Scotch tape on it says:

“Grand Marshal” Severo Avila #countfloydcounty

Now before y’all think this was some big honor, it WASN’T. He was playing a joke on me. I was his little performing circus monkey and he was parading me around under the empty title of “Grand Marshal,” which he put in quotation marks on the hastily printed sign to drive home the fact that there really is no such thing as a Grand Marshal of a CENSUS MOTORCADE.

He and Patrick thought it was the funniest thing in the world. But being the good Christian I am, I got in his truck and we rode over to meet the rest of the vehicles taking part in the motorcade.

One of those vehicles was driven by Mandy Maloney, who is very instrumental in pushing for more census awareness. Lo and behold, she steps out of her car with a big bright red cape for me to wear. She was in on it too. The cape was more of a king’s robe and she even brought a crown for me to wear. But it wasn’t even a crown. It was a TIARA.

I put on the cape to be a good sport but I drew the line at the tiara.

We had all gathered at the East Rome Walmart where the motorcade would start, so here I was standing in the Walmart parking lot wearing a cape and posing for photos with Census 2020 signs.

A local firefighter, Wesley Peschel, was only too happy to snap a photo of me in the ridiculous cape to send to our mutual friends so they could give me grief about it.

The things I do for my community.

But the motorcade, complete with a police escort, fire engine and lots of noise and fanfare made its way through Rome and I sat in the front seat of Sammy Rich’s truck waving to people and hollering for them to fill out their census forms.

It actually was a fun event and I really hope that we reminded people to take part in the census.

On a side note, I got my census form in the mail a couple weeks back. It took me literally two minutes to answer the questions and I just dropped it in the mail. It was that simple. And it’s even easier if you do it online at www.2020census.gov. You can even do it over the phone. And remember, your family being counted means more federal dollars for our community.

So please fill out your census forms as I devise a way to get back at Sammy Rich.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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