Get to Know Your Local Government: the Mayor and the Manager


Athens Manager Blane Williams and Mayor Nancy Denson

Athens Manager Blane Williams and Mayor Nancy Denson

Editors’ Note: This is the second part of our series, “Get to know your local government!” In this story, Avery Murdie compares the powerful positions of Mayor and Manager.

You can read part one in our series for an introduction to the Athens Clarke-County Unified Government or read part three to learn bout the Commission.

Mayor’s Office

Mayor Denson has obstructed progress in Athens, often by holding tight control over what items are put on the agendas.

 

Mayor Nancy Denson is serving her second term.

Nancy Denson is the Mayor of the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government. The powers of the Mayor mostly include setting the agenda for Commission meetings and recommending candidates for several Athens-Clarke County positions, such as the manager, attorney, Municipal Court judge, and internal auditor. The Mayor also presents the budget.

A4E Perspective: Mayor Denson has obstructed progress in Athens, often by holding tight control over what items are put on the agendas. Under the guise of “Business Friendly,” she has promoted policies and development proposals that benefit luxury housing developers and large corporations. Unfortunately, under Mayor Denson’s watch, astronomical poverty rates and income inequality persist in much of our community. Georgia’s poverty rate is 17%. Athens is more than double that at nearly 38%.

This organizational chart shows how all positions-- elected and appointed-- connect back to the Manager

This organizational chart shows how elected positions– including the Mayor and Commission– connected to appointed positions like the Manager, and all other ACCUG staff

Notable Mayor Denson quotes:

  1. Trickle-down economics (Denson appears to subscribe to this)
    1. “one of the best stimuli for small business is big business”
  2. On supporting big business (The Mark was criticized for rejecting inclusion in ADDA’s boundaries, despite touting the benefits of being in downtown Athens)
    1. Denson said that it is “disturbing to me to hear criticism of a business that’s increasing our tax base significantly.”
  3. On poverty
    1. “Athens is a magnet” for poor people because “because they know they can get help.”
  4. On poverty rates (the official nationwide average, per U.S. Census Bureau, is 13.5%; Denson appears to be unaware of this)
    1. “I’ve also seen articles that say once adjusted for the students, our poverty rate comes to around 27 percent. Which is average for the country.”
  5. On affordable housing and new luxury student apartments (apparently Athens families need to settle for leftovers)
    1. “As students move into these bright new shiny toys, they abandon the old ones, but that allows families to move into those housing”
  6. On working with local non-profits (she does not work with A4E)
    1. “I will also continue to work with our non-profit community partners to address poverty’s ill effects”
  7. On sexual assault in Athens and on UGA’s campus (apparently Denson believes there is no need for ACC action)(are victims to blame?)
    1. Denson “said that the city and organizations like the Cottage and Project Safe already are doing everything in their power to prevent it”
    2. “A lot of girls don’t know what’s appropriate,” she said. It all comes down to education, starting with “good touch, bad touch” stuff they teach in kindergarten.

Mayor Denson is serving her second term. The next election for mayor of Athens-Clarke County is to be held in May of 2018.

More about the Mayor

Learn more about the Mayor from the perspective of the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government:

Office of Manager

Blane Williams has served as the manager since 2016.

While we often assume it is the Mayor that wields the most power in town, it might actually be the person the Mayor appoints.

Blaine Williams is the current manager. The Mayor recommends the person for this position and the commission approves. The position is a term of two years and there is no limit to number of terms served. The manager can be removed at any time with a majority vote by the Commission.

The manager is a powerful position. With an annual salary listed at $172,219, the position is basically the equivalent of a Chief Operating Officer: they oversee the daily operation of the organization. They essentially hire, fire, and direct the entire staff of the ACC Unified Government. In fact, neither the Mayor, nor the commissioners, can give orders directly to local government staff (except in investigations).

While we often assume it is the Mayor that wields the most power in town, it might actually be the person the Mayor appoints. In fact, the manager performs the leadership, managerial, and administrative functions associated with the day to day operation of the ACC Unified Government. This individual is in charge of over 1,800 ACC employees and commands a budget of $202 million.

The position also requires a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A., or equivalent), with at least ten years of experience in local government work. Upon Mr. Williams appointment, Online Athens posted an article in early 2016 with a short biography and coverage of his background. He brings plenty of prior personal knowledge to the position, having served as assistant manager, and then manager, of Georgia’s Floyd county.

More about the Manager

Learn more about the Manager from the perspective of the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government:

The Commission

Who are the 10 commissioners, and how progressive are they? Read part three of our series Get to Know Your Local Government, the Commission. You can also read our introduction to the Athens Clarke-County Unified Government.

 

Avery Murdie, April 18, 2017

Photos and maps used with permission, courtesy of Jason Harwell, Public Information Media Analyst, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government.

Correction Notice: This story originally included this section under “Notable Mayor Denson quotes”:

On taxpayers subsidizing Caterpillar (Caterpillar promised 1,400 jobs, but has provided only 932; total cost to local taxpayers over 20 years from incentives offered to Caterpillar = $63.7 million)

Caterpillar will be “life-changing for families

It contained a significant error and was deleted. The correct number of jobs currently being provided at the Caterpillar plant is 1700.

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