Im not sure many of us would recognize Ron Wildman without a TV camera on his shoulder.
The man has covered more fires, wrecks, council meetings, basketball games and chicken dinner banquets than anyone with a pulse on Planet Macon. His number should be retired as the hardest-working broadcast journalist in city history.
He has never been one to let the grass grow under his feet.
Or weeds, either, for that matter.
Until last summer, Ron had never owned a weed-eater. He admits he had never even used one.
Now, on most Saturday mornings, you will find him chopping down weeds by the dawns early light on the sidewalks of Spring Street or the median along Eisenhower Parkway.
He fears no crabgrass on Walnut or Hardeman. The broadleaf grass growing in the crevices along Broadway trembles in his path.
Pam Carswell laughs and calls him Weed-Whacking Man.
Pam is the executive director of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission. Ron contacted her last year about volunteering. He vowed to declare war on any unsightly weeds that popped up along curbs or hunkered down between cracks in the sidewalks.
I was astounded he would want to give up his Saturday mornings and do this, Pam said. But he was so sincere about it. Thats what touched me. He didnt want anything in return.
Ron will get something in return, though, besides the satisfaction of a job well done. Monday, he will be recognized for his community service as Volunteer of the Year by the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival awards luncheon at Vineville United Methodist Church.
Ron is semi-retired now and is enjoying life as a grandfather, following a broadcast career that began 50 years ago in 1963. He came to Middle Georgia in 1966 to work at radio station WRBN in Warner Robins, then hit the airwaves at WNEX and WMAZ (now WMAC) in Macon.
He spent 13 years at WMAZ-TV and another 13 at WGXA-TV. After he worked for WPGA for five years, he worked for nine years as a videographer for Macon City Hall and as spokesman for the mayors office.
So hes covered a lot of ground. And pavement, too. If anyone should know where a patch of weeds might be hanging out, it would be Mr. Wildman.
The first area he selected was the territory around the Spring Street bridge at Interstate 16. He tried to tackle the project with a pair of hedge clippers. Thats when he realized a weed-eater might be a practical investment.
He purchased a Black & Decker electric trimmer with just enough torque to spring into action like a superhero.
I asked if motorists ever recognize him when he is terrorizing rebellious grass and grooming the right-of-ways.
Yeah, but Im usually out there pretty early, so theres not as much traffic, he said. Sometimes people honk their horns. A few of them call me and ask: Was that you?
He usually wears one of his familiar windbreakers, not the jumpsuit of a prison work detail. Still, he will allow himself to have a little good-natured fun when a curious soul wonders why he is brandishing a weed-eater on Mercer University Drive.
Work release program, he chuckles.
Pam holds him up as a stellar example in the commissions ongoing efforts to beautify the city.
I hope its contagious when people see him out there, she said.
They dont have to go all over the place like I do, Ron said. If everyone would just look after their own neighborhoods, it would be great.
Brighten the corner where you are. Every little bit helps.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.