District 1 Commissioner
Represents east Athens and Winterville.
Professional and Civic Experience
President, Sharyn Dickerson & Associates, LLC (2005-present)
Assistant Solid Waste Director, Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County (1997-2005, 1994-1996)
President, Whit Davis Elementary School PTO (2009-2012)
Master of Public Administration, University of Georgia (August 1998)
Bachelor Business Administration from University of Georgia (March 1990)
Often takes Republican primary ballots, but not exclusively.
Donated to John McCain (R) in 2008.
On the fundraising committee of Houston Gaines (R) in 2017.
Inferred Party: Republican
Voted YES on re-zoning Mitchell Street without using the county’s leverage to ask for some affordable units in the new development.
“It’s a little dangerous to start arbitrarily placing numbers on pay, because it diminishes the quality of someone else’s job. We’d all like to get paid what the President of the United States gets paid, but we don’t have that knowledge, skills and ability and we haven’t paid the dues to get there.”
Sharyn Dickerson, May 17, 2016 Agenda-Setting Session
“Your salary is based on your knowledge, skills and abilities and maybe how long you have been there. [If we fund the living wage] that will mean higher costs. Some of our services will go up in price, including summer programs and water for example.”
Sharyn Dickerson, June 7, 2016 Voting Session
“I’m suggesting we consider charging a 25 cent fare so they have some skin in the game. There is no value in it if they are not invested.”
Sharyn Dickerson, July 19, 2016 Agenda-Setting Session
Moratorium on Downtown Development: YES
Progress on Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan: YES
TSPLOST project list and referendum: YES
Re-zoning Mitchell Street: YES
(More information about 2017 votes)
Apply for ‘Go Transit’ Grant Funding: YES
Complete Streets Improvements for Chase: NO
Allow Sale of Growlers in Brewpubs: YES
Fare-Free Bus Rides for K-12 Students: YES
Bar Admittance and Civil Rights Committee: YES
(More information about 2016 votes)
FY 2016 Budget: YES
Removing Wetland Buffers: YES
Delay repaving of Chase Street: YES
Adopt Securus Tech Contract: YES
Allow Food Trucks: YES
Keep Domestic Partnership Benefits: YES
(More information about 2015 votes)
An upcoming T-SPLOST program is projected to yield millions of dollars of additional revenue for ACC transportation infrastructure over the next five years. How do you believe we should prioritize the allocation of this revenue, assuming the measure passes?
“Should a T-SPLOST referendum pass with the approval of the ACC citizens, I would like to see the funds prioritized to (1) complete the Greenway network, (2) complete the Firefly Trail (Rails-to-Trails project) into Winterville, (3) establish a multi-use trail that runs parallel to Lexington Highway from the intersection of Old Winterville Road and Lexington Road/Highway 78E to Southeast Clarke Park, (4) establish planted refuge islands along the Lexington Road/Highway 78E and Atlanta Highway corridors, (5) build more sidewalks with a focus on connecting together the existing ‘sidewalks to nowhere,’ and (6) purchase additional hybrid-transit buses to replace current gas-powered buses as their life cycles end.”
How will you act to implement complete streets in Athens? Which areas of town do you feel are most in need of infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists?
“I will act through the annual budget process and, hopefully, a T-SPLOST referendum to implement “Complete Streets’ in Athens by supporting the continued evaluation of our local roadways for these types of improvements with a primary goal to work toward completing and expanding our sidewalk network. While I support the idea of “Complete Streets,” I think we need to be practical and acknowledge that not all streets or all parts of all streets within our community should be “complete.” So to answer “which areas of town do (I) feel are most in need of infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists,” I offer the following response. In areas within our community where we have not only a high population density, but also business districts that support that population (such as along Oak and Oconee Streets, Five Points, or Prince Avenue to name a few), it is evident that infrastructure improvements are needed and it would make sense to continue working to establish a “complete” set of transportation alternatives in these areas as design standards allow and funding becomes available. However, as we move outside the Loop/Perimeter 10 it does not seem reasonable to implement all components of “complete” streets on all streets. In the less population dense areas of our community, we may only need to implement a couple of the complete street components. A good example is Lexington Road/Highway 78 East. This state highway runs from the west side of Clarke County through the core of downtown and all the way to the eastern most side of the County. The section of this highway that runs from the Loop/Perimeter 10 heading east to the County line would merit having a healthy sidewalk network and/or a multi-use trail or Greenway. Such a trail would provide for the safe and efficient travel of our citizens not only to and from bus stops along the highway, but also to and from town, shopping centers and/or Southeast Clarke Park. However, establishing bike lanes along this highway does not seem reasonable and certainly not safe. A better alternative would be to direct bicyclists to an established multi-use trail or Greenway that could run parallel to this highway and which would support various alternative forms of transportation. While I support “Complete Streets,” I do not think it is a one-size fits all policy for all our streets or roadways, and I expect the citizens would encourage us to use our limited resources to make decisions that best meet the needs of the citizens who live in these different areas within our community.”
Water buffers were narrowly voted down last summer and the proposed Green Building Ordinance has sat untouched for years. What role, if any, do you think the ACC government should play in protecting the environment, addressing climate change, or promoting sustainability? Are there any specific policies or programs you would like to implement in 2016?
“It has been my experience as both an employee of the Unified Government for nearly 14 years (1991-2005) and now as an ACC Commissioner that the ACC staff and elected officials have been good stewards of our environment and continue to work diligently to protect our environment in many ways. With the support of the ACC Commission, for the past 25 years the Solid Waste Department has established and maintained waste reduction programs that help to reduce what is being landfilled while expanding the opportunities for residents and businesses to reduce, reuse and/or recycle their waste materials within our community. For 20 years, the ACC Public Utilities Department has focused on and been very successful educating our citizens on local water conservation efforts and has plans to introduce solar power at one of the Water Reclamation Facilities in the near future. The ACC government also plays a direct role in protecting our environment through the appointment of local citizens to serve on various Boards, Authorities, and Commissions. For example, ACC’s Community Tree Council works to “conserve and professionally manage publicly-owned trees while providing education and support for private tree owners and managers.” ACC’s Sandy Creek Nature Center has a wide variety of nature/science education activities and programs for all ages. Other sustainable practices implemented by ACC include installation of recharging stations for electric vehicles and the purchase of hybrid transit buses. At this point, I do not have any specific policies or programs that I would like to see implemented in 2016. However, I remain open to considering any programs that our staff may present to us that would effectively address, promote, and/or incentivize sustainability within our community.”
A recent study has shown that there is a shortage of affordable housing needed by our workforce in Athens. What changes to our local code or other incentives will you advocate for in ACC? Would you consider an inclusionary zoning ordinance?
“There is no doubt that affordable housing and workforce housing are priorities of the ACC Commission. In fact, Commissioner Diane Bell (District 7) and I have been appointed by the Mayor to serve on the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH); a three-year commitment. GICH is a public-private venture sponsored and supported by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Power, Georgia Municipal Association, and the University of Georgia. It is an initiative that helps bring key stakeholders together to address the unique housing needs of their communities and provides technical assistance, training, collaboration, consensus building and the opportunity to network with other communities in Georgia facing similar housing challenges. We, along with others in our community serving on the GICH “Housing Team” (i.e.: Planning Commission, Land Bank Authority, Athens Area Community Foundation, UGA, Action Ministries, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, Athens Land Trust, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, Clarke County School District, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, ACC Economic Development, Athens Housing Authority, and the ACC Housing and Community Development Department), will use the Workforce Housing Needs Assessment and Strategy, the Multi-Family Housing Inventory and Survey, and other information from team members to set goals and objectives that we hope will begin to address our community’s housing needs. In February, the ACC GICH team attended our first retreat and began laying the groundwork for our efforts. For now, I think it is premature to discuss changes to our local code and/or other incentives we might employ until we more clearly identify and prioritize our housing needs. Although there is still much to be discussed, I think there may be aspects of inclusionary zoning that we may find useful in certain applications and/or for specific zoning designations within Athens-Clarke County.”
While the movement grows around the country to raise the minimum wage and many municipalities are setting higher standards (as much as $15/hr by 2020), Georgia has a law prohibiting localities from setting their own minimum wage. Do you see low wages as a problem in Athens? If so, how will you support working class Athenians in light of such barriers from the State legislature?
“Low wages are a problem in Athens, but like in many other communities throughout the United States they are reflective of our community’s economy. A number of factors determine local wages, including population, cost of living, available workforce (skilled vs. unskilled), market competition, and location or geography. With the exceptions of UGA, ACC, our two hospitals, and a handful of industry manufacturers, if you look around most of what you see in our community are fast food chains, bars, offices, and retail shops. Most of these businesses’ entry-level jobs typically require very little skill and therefore, are paid a low wage. The prevailing problem seems to be that we have a healthy inventory of low wage jobs and a relatively healthy inventory of highly skilled jobs, but not much in the middle. With the University of Georgia, several smaller area colleges, and roughly 2,500 high school students (some of whom are old enough to work), there is no shortage of entry-level workers. Over the years, I have heard concerns from citizens that college students are taking away the lower skilled jobs that could be filled by citizens who already live in our community and are potential applicants for these low-skilled jobs. So the challenge is that we have plenty of people (and then some) who are willing to work for the current minimum wage, so there is no market incentive to change it. It is basic economics: supply versus demand. If the demand for certain skills is low and supply is high, the result is a low price paid for these skills. In converse, if the demand for certain skills is high and supply is low, the result is a rise in the price to be paid to these skills. Moreover, organizations conform their pay to the going rate in the area based on the cost of living. In other words, geography plays a role in how much a worker is paid. For example, the base pay for a cashier at McDonald’s here in Athens is $7/hour, but in Baltimore, Maryland the same job pays $8/hour. Barnes and Noble pays a Bookseller $10.50/hour in Washington, DC, but only $7.75/hour here in Athens. Finally, a Fork Lift Operator in York, Pennsylvania earns $12.75/hour; whereas, the same job in Athens pays $10.97/hour. Notwithstanding, we need to keep in mind that there are unintended consequences of increasing pay regardless of the other variables noted. One example is the impact it has on the cost of goods and services. One could argue that increasing pay will inevitably increase the cost of goods and services which the worker must purchase and, therefore, would not do much to address the worker’s ability to get ahead. In addition, forcing higher minimum wage could suppress the small entrepreneurial businesses that are present now and have already made significant investments in human and capital infrastructure within our community. Do I think everyone should be given the opportunity to earn a “living wage?” Absolutely, but I think our focus as a community should be to increase the skill level of our workforce in whatever way we can and by whatever means available instead of simply raising the minimum wage just because we think everyone should be paid a certain dollar amount per hour. For me, our greatest opportunity to help our fellow citizens is to invest in them. The upside of this is that industries that look to relocate or expand often point to the need to find communities with a highly skilled workforce; which translates into higher paying jobs. If we can increase the number of skilled workers in ACC, then we would stand a better chance of attracting these companies which would result in better paying jobs for our citizens.”
Sexual assault is a serious problem in Athens as it is around the country, and the problem isn’t only on campus. What will you do to help build a culture of consent in our community?
“I believe that respect for one another as well as for ourselves is essential to begin building a culture of consent. The opportunity is to start with our children and teach them the value of developing and nurturing relationships that are equitable. On a personal level, my husband and I will continue to financially support local agencies whose missions seek to address this devastating problem. As a Commissioner, I will also support in any way that I am able and as much as possible the efforts of local groups not only to educate the public about consent, but also to develop and cultivate a strong consent-based culture in our community.”
The county officially cut the ribbon on our expanded jail (priced at $77 million) in October. What will you do to reduce the number of people spending time in our county jail each year?
“As a native and lifelong citizen of Athens-Clarke County, I will continue to support all the efforts of the ACC Police Department, Probation Office, and Sheriff’s Office to prevent and/or deter crime in our community. I will also continue to offer my support to our Judges, the traditional court system, and the following five Accountability Court programs that have been established: DUI/Drug Court, Family Dependency Treatment Court, Felony Drug Court, Treatment and Accountability Court, and Veterans Court. The treatment and judicial oversight provided through these Accountability Court programs has proven over time to not only divert people who would otherwise spend time in our jail, but also encourage accountability and reduce recidivism. These courts are, and continue to be a valuable resource to our community.”
Do you support the creation of a Human Relations Commission to hear, review, and make recommendations on discrimination complaints in Athens?
“I am still learning about Human Relations Commissions and, therefore, I hesitate at this point to say I would support one in our community. Claims of discrimination are very serious allegations that a court of law should address to ensure each party involved is allowed the opportunity to defend themselves (i.e.: innocent until proven guilty). An HRC made up of citizens with or without any legal skills could lend itself to harassment of and by either party and/or make the ACC government liable. Moreover, HRC’s can only make recommendations; specific actions would still be left to the courts for interpretation and enforcement. In researching HRC’s, the aspect I do like is the focus on education, training, and conflict management. I do not think anyone is immune to being prejudice. We are all guilty of discriminating in different ways and about different things. It is how we act upon these prejudices that often causes conflict. As a child, my parents taught me discipline and instilled in me a respect for all people regardless of gender, religion, race, age, or placement in society. It has been my observation that prejudices happen across and within all economic levels. What seems to be the common denominator is the breakdown of the family unit, and the fact that these kinds of values are often not being taught or even talked about. So again should an HRC be established, my hope is that education would be the focus.”
What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Athens and how will you address it in 2016?
“I think the biggest problem facing Athens-Clarke County is the economy. I think this may be addressed on a variety of fronts. First, we need to invest in our workforce. As I noted above, I think our focus as a community should be to increase the skill level of our workforce in whatever way we can and by whatever means available. Second, we need to face the fact that we have lost businesses to neighboring counties, and it appears the momentum may be gaining ground. While we have recently made significant changes that have greatly improved our local permitting process (which some may point to as one of the reasons we lost businesses in the past), ACC is still not perceived as a business-friendly government. We need to continue to work on retaining and growing our business base, or the tax burden will continue to grow for our homeowners. We are often told that “rooftop numbers” (not only the number of homes, but the income associated with these homes) is one reason we have trouble attracting businesses. So addressing our housing market seems like a logical step to take as well. As I have already mentioned, ACC has recently launched an effort to do just that by participating in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing grant program. Finally, as a member of the Lexington Road Corridor Study Group, we identified early on that the presentation of the corridor to our citizens and visitors has an impact on our economy and/or ability to attract businesses and, for that matter residents. If we want more businesses to locate along the corridor and people to reside here, then we need to take pride in our community and make it an attractive place to live, work, play, and retire. If we won’t, then who will? One way we think we could begin to do this is to address the aesthetics along Lexington Road/Highway 78 East. One particular action we hope to implement in the near future is the installation of unique, “artsy” bus shelters, like the ones citizens can see along West Broad Street. Not only will the shelter provide a functional benefit to the transit rider, but also it will be an aesthetically pleasing piece of art that will help convey a sense of pride along our corridor. We have also discussed a variety of ways to promote a “you have arrived in Athens” feeling to those traveling along and/or living near the corridor. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we recognize that our commercial design standards and zoning regulations are impacting our ability to attract businesses. There appears to be consensus among the Mayor and Commission for the need to address these regulations, so I anticipate we will see some recommended changes very soon. Although not a comprehensive list by any means, I am hopeful that these actions will attract and retain both businesses and residents along the corridor and within the greater ACC community; thus, helping our local economy.”
What accomplishment are you most proud of during your time in local government?
Sharyn served as Assistant Director of the ACC Solid Waste Department for many years, and has served as a County Commissioner for just over one year.
“During my time as an employee with the ACC Solid Waste Department (1991-2005), I was honored to have been given the opportunity to be involved in the development and implementation of our Comprehensive Waste Reduction Program. As Recycling Coordinator and later as the Assistant Director of Solid Waste, I was in charge of managing the overall effort. The effort included the procurement of a public-private Recovered Materials Processing Facility, expansion of residential recycling collection services, establishment of commercial recycling services in downtown Athens, and the introduction of a Pay-as-You-Throw garbage fee system for both residential and commercial customers (which allowed the customer to manage their garbage much like other utilities such as gas, power, and water). Perhaps the accomplishment I am most proud of is the public-private Recovered Materials Processing Facility. As Project Manager, I was tasked with overseeing its construction. This facility was and is still today the cornerstone of our waste reduction program. With a private investment of $2.5 million dollars, the facility opened in August of 1995 and was the first and only one of its kind in the state of Georgia. Combining the use of publicly-owned, government land with a privately-owned and operated facility, we created a unique public-private partnership. The facility and the programs we established more than 20 years ago would not have been possible without the foresight of our local elected officials (especially, the efforts of then District 1 Commissioner Charles Carter, Chairman of the Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Committee), the hard work of all Solid Waste Department and Recycling Division employees, the continued support and countless hours of work by our dedicated Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Committee members, and the voluntary participation by the citizens of Athens-Clarke County.”