In past years, Jerry NeSmith was sometimes an ally and sometimes an opponent of A4E’s policy goals. He deserves credit for being on the right side of the AADM-led fight for an Athens Civil Rights Committee and for good votes on environmental issues in particular.
We hoped that the progressive wave in the 2018 local elections (District 6 was not on the ballot that year) would help Jerry embrace his more liberal side. Instead, he has done little to support those working to enact the changes that Athenians have overwhelmingly voted for and at times has chosen to obstruct those changes.
Sometimes Jerry offers numerous amendments that weaken other commissioners’ progressive proposals. Other times, he rejects community members’ legitimate demands for justice, most clearly and recently on the proposed Linnentown resolution that would provide recognition and redress to the victims of the racial terrorism enacted on their neighborhood by UGA and the Athens government in the 1960s. Jerry often pays lip service to progressive goals but rejects the concrete proposals before him. For example, in his answers to our questionnaire he says that he believes in transforming our local EMS and 911 call center to be publicly run, but in his years of service on the EMS oversight committee, he has made no progress on moving us toward that goal without being dragged toward it by citizen activists.
Commissioner NeSmith does deserve credit for being among the most responsive commissioners to individual constituent concerns, which he takes seriously and acts upon with diligence. He’s engaged and takes the business of the commission seriously, but often privileges his own district over the needs of Athens as a whole.
And, of course, we haven’t forgotten his co-hosting a fundraiser for Houston Gaines, then a Republican candidate for State House, in 2017. Gaines went on to win that election and was a crucial vote in passing Georgia’s forced-birth bill.Professional / Civic Experience
Founding Director, Treasurer of Athens Farmers Market, LLC (non-profit) (2008-present)
Member, ACC Planning Commission (2003-present)
Founding Co-Director, University of Georgia research computing center (2004-2010)
IT Manager, Emory University (2001-2003)
Account Executive, US federal contractor, civilian agencies, Washington, DC (1991-1997)
Donations: Donated to John Barrow (D) in 2006.
Fundraising: On Houston Gaines’ (R) fundraising committee in 2017.
Inferred Party: Most likely a Democrat
Issues: Affordable Housing
Voted YES on re-zoning Mitchell Street without using the county’s leverage to ask for some affordable units in the new development.
Regarding the list of projects to be selected for the upcoming TSPLOST referendum, as reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, “I hope that we will narrow this down to projects that are more conventional transportation.”
May 9, 2017 Work Session
“I don’t understand how you can say someone isn’t skilled enough to make a living wage. It’s a living wage.”
May 12, 2016 Work Session
“We do a lot of things that are free, paid for by taxpayers. This is just another one.”
July 19, 2016 Agenda-Setting Session
Changing designated SPLOST projects to remove the Classic Center (April 2, 2019): YES
Changing designated SPLOST projects to include the new judicial center (April 2, 2019): YES
Approving the revised proposal for the Mark’s easement (April 2, 2019): YES
Adopting a resolution 100% renewable energy: YES
Removing cash bail for local ordinances: YES
Changing yearly rent for East Athens Development Corporation et al. to $1: YES
Resolution in support of Athens’ undocumented community: YES
Approving list of items to present to local legislative delegation (including driver’s licenses for undocumented people, reversal of campus carry, wage increases for USG employees, income cap on HOPE): YES
(More information about 2019 votes)
Moving Work Sessions to City Hall: YES
Redesigning the Chase Street Corridor: NO
Updating County Anti-Discrimination Policy: YES
Athens in Motion plan: absent
Bike Lanes on Barnett Shoals: NO
Delay Designating SPLOST Projects: NO
(More information about 2018 votes)
Progress on Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan: YES
TSPLOST project list and referendum: YES
Re-zoning Mitchell Street: YES
(More information about 2017 votes)
Complete Streets Improvements for Chase: YES
Allow Sale of Growlers in Brewpubs: YES
Fare-Free Bus Rides for K-12 Students: YES
Bar Admittance and Civil Rights Committee: NO
(More information about 2016 votes)
FY 2016 Budget: YES
Removing Wetland Buffers: NO
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)
2020 Questionnaire Responses
- Do you support improving and sustaining FY20’s $4 million prosperity package? YES
- Do you support transforming our local EMS and 911 call center to be publicly run? YES
- Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES
- Do you support advocating for the creation of a workers’ center and investing in political education on labor and worker empowerment? YES
- Do you support DIA and AIRC in their efforts to protect undocumented people? YES
- Do you support establishing a community police advisory board (ACC police killed at least six people in 2019)? YES
“For broader reasons than the police shootings”
- Do you support ensuring that ACC does not use unpaid prison labor? YES
Q. How do you think ACC should deal with developers, including those who put up large student apartment complexes? Please give specific examples, such as a community benefits program.
A: “We need land use policies that give development (density) bonuses to those that provide some minimum level affordable housing (and increases that bonus with higher levels). We need better, stronger downtown design guidelines to help preserve the look and scale of downtown Athens. We need to encourage UGA to provide student housing on its campus.”
Q. What can ACC do to promote affordable housing? What do you think of mixed-use redevelopment? Please give specific examples.
A: “The redevelopment of Bethel homes is an example of ACC promoting affordable housing and will be a mixed use redevelopment. We can also promote affordable/workforce housing by amending our land use laws to allow tiny houses, accessory housing and smaller homes to be built.”
Q: White people still hold a hugely disproportionate amount of economic and social power in Athens-Clarke County. If elected, what will you do to help fight this structural imbalance, increase the economic security of, and ensure the equal treatment of Athenians of color; especially black Athenians who continue to be most targeted by past and present systems of oppression?
A: “I am in favor of and am already promoting strengthened ACC procurement policies that will give priority and favor to local and disadvantaged businesses when scoring and awarding contracts. I am in favor of local anti-discrimination laws (and enforcement) to protect all minorities, including African American, Latinx, religious minorities, women, LGBTQ. I look forward to the implementation the police advisory board. I am working with others on the Pre-Arrest Diversion (PAD) program, which will provide those who commit minor crimes alternatives to arrest and a criminal record. I fully support funding of ACC’s Accountability Courts, which give people of all socio-economic strata opportunities to recover from behavioral disorders, addiction and family dysfunction, avoid incarceration and gain or keep employment.”
Q. The rates of poverty and income inequality in Athens remain extraordinarily high. What will you do to specifically support low-income and low-wealth Athenians?
A: “See answer above. I am also in favor of a low-income homestead exemption to help people with low incomes stay in their homes and protect family wealth, in spite of increasing home values. I will support continuation of the Prosperity Package in annual budgets and effective expenditure of those funds and believe those funds could leverage the efforts of other organizations already supporting low-income, disadvantaged citizens, and at-risk youth.
I also support the Community Service Board, (Advantage Behavioral Health Services) in its mission to provide treatment to individuals and families experiencing mental illness, developmental disabilities, and addictions to those who cannot afford those services.”
Q. How would you grade our current mayor and commission?
A: “We have achieved many goals in the last year. I find the commissioners and the mayor to be open-minded and good listeners. I am proud to serve with them. The mayor has great ideas and develops those ideas into effective legislative initiatives and encourages the commission to refine and improve those initiatives. The mayor understands the history of Athens, which is an asset to the entire body. We will make more progress in the years ahead with this group of well-meaning, progressive representatives of the people of Athens.”
Q. What is your most important policy priority for your first year in office?
A: “Improving ACC procurement policies and practices to give favor to local and disadvantaged businesses and to businesses who subcontract with local/disadvantaged businesses is a high priority for me. Given the large amount of money ACC spends of SPLOST and TSPLOST projects, that level of expenditure plus normal annual budgets would make a big difference in the health of our local businesses and economy if local and disadvantaged businesses could participate.
Improved, broader local anti-discrimination ordinances are also important to me.”
2018 Questionnaire Responses
Jerry did not answer our questionnaire in 2018.