Kelly Girtz

Kelly Girtz with a B- next to himMayor of Athens-Clarke County
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There is no question that Kelly Girtz has been a massive improvement over his predecessor as mayor, but we would like to see him fulfill more of his campaign promises. With Linnentown he has yet to put the resolution on the agenda, but he has met with the organizers and residents to form a committee. This is a first step to meeting the demands but the residents want the resolution passed and a specific committee for Linnentown. Kelly appears to be standing in the way of decriminalizing cannabis at the local level. His leadership on the COVID-19 outbreak was quick and forward thinking, and he has taken some steps toward an equity package and bail reform. That said, those steps do not go far enough, and Girtz remains unwilling to push for people-led legislation.

Professional and Civic Experience
Assistant Director for Student Services of Foothills Charter High School, formerly a teacher and administrator with Clarke County School District – W.R. Coile Middle School, Classic City High School (1998-2014)
Junior League of Athens Advisory Board
Former District 9 Commissioner

Master of Arts in Teaching, Piedmont College
Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Old Dominion University

Party Affiliation
Primary Ballots: Exclusively takes Democratic primary ballots.
Donations: Donated to John Edwards (D) in 2007.

Inferred Party: Democrat

green check1  Issues: Living Wages

“I think that just like with the structure we have with our full-time employees, there is a floor.  We set a floor.  We don’t push any of our full-time employees down to $8 an hour, we shouldn’t do that to our part-time employees either.”

Kelly Girtz, May 12, 2016 Work Session


green check1  Issues: Fare-Free Transit for K-12 students

“I see this as a public good in a broad sense. You could think about any number of public resources for which we’re not charging. We’re not charging to use the sidewalk or to ride a bike on the Greenway, and I see those as comparable amenities.”

Kelly Girtz, July 19, 2016 Agenda-Setting Session


Voting Record

  • 2018
    Cedar Creek Solar Array Project: YES
    Moving Work Sessions to City Hall: YES
    Redesigning the Chase Street Corridor: YES
    Updating County Anti-Discrimination Policy: YES
    Reject Concept Maps for Athens in Motion: NO
    Athens in Motion plan: YES
    Bike Lanes on Barnett Shoals: YES
    Delay Designating SPLOST Projects: NO
    (More information about 2018 votes)

  • 2017
    Moratorium on Downtown Development: YES
    Progress on Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan: YES
    TSPLOST project list and referendum: YES
    Re-zoning Mitchell Street: NO
    (More information about 2017 votes)

  • 2016
    Apply for ‘Go Transit’ grant funding: YES
    Complete Streets Improvements for Chase: YES
    Allow Sale of Growlers in Brewpubs: absent
    Fare-Free Bus Rides for K-12 Students: YES
    Bar Admittance and Civil Rights Committee: abstain
    (More information about 2016 votes)

  • 2015
    Pro-Chicken: YES
    FY 2016 Budget: YES
    Removing Wetland Buffers: NO
    Delay repaving of Chase Street: absent
    Adopt Securus Tech Contract: absent
    Allow Food Trucks: YES
    Keep Domestic Partnership Benefits: YES
    (More information about 2015 votes)


    2018 Questionnaire Responses


    • Do you support fare-free bus service?: YES

    “See for additional commentary.”

    • Do you support expansion of transit service (e.g. increased frequency, more locations, longer service hours)? YES

    “See for additional commentary.”

    • Do you support increasing the budget for bike and pedestrian infrastructure from the general fund? YES

    “See for additional commentary.”


    Criminal Justice Reform

    • Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES

    “See for additional commentary.”


    Environmental Sustainability

      • Do you support a ban or fee on single-use plastic bags? YES

    “See for additional commentary.”

    Racial Justice

    • Do you support an Athens Civil Rights Committee established through the county government? YES

    “See for additional commentary.”

    • Do you believe that Athens-Clarke County should move forward with comprehensive non-discrimination legislation? YES

    “See for additional commentary.” 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: (click to read)

    The systems that have limited access for Black Athenians to housing, employment, wealth creation, and power in this town are echoed across the nation, and well documented. The first step is acknowledging the roads that got us here: intentional segregation and discrimination from private and public players alike, including in housing policy through much of the 20th century (designated poverty zones, “urban renewal” plans that reduced wealth, exclusionary sales contract language, etc.), criminal justice system operations (from virtual slavery by jailers to discriminatory patterns of prosecution), banking, and employment discrimination. Despite the transition in employment sectors for Black working poor in Athens over the last 100 years – – from agriculture to low-wage manufacturing to service work, we still have a vast segment of Black poverty here. Our response now needs to be as broad-based as the problems that led us here: -housing that is well-operated, integrated, and builds individual wealth to help young and old alike -revisiting the county’s own contracting language, as the minority contracting policy of the government has not been significantly examined in decades -vastly expanding programs like the Great Promises partnership to build skills and social capital in young people, which should be an underlying principle of future capital project operations for ACC -working with community partners to support mid-career supports for those stuck in low-wage positions (this is among the toughest prospects,, but cannot be ignored)

    Affordable Housing

      • Do you support repealing the single-family ordinance? YES

    “See for additional commentary.” Q: Rising rents and the proliferation of luxury student apartment complexes has been a major issue in town for the past several years. What will you do to promote affordable housing in Athens for its current residents? A: (click to read)

    A mix of public investment, and requirement and incentive for private investment is among the mechanism that will bring new safe, quality, affordable housing in Athens. Athens is but one example of our nation’s decades-long trend toward greater distance between those across the economic spectrum, but a commitment to economically integrated affordable housing can reverse this trend. As mayor, I will propose a SPLOST program for affordable housing, including infrastructure and utility connection support for private providers, use of Tax Allocation District proceeds to include similar support, density bonus opportunities for private developers, and inclusionary zoning requirements for developments of a certain scale. This can include redevelopment of areas that have become distressed or functionally obsolete. In addition, continued work with nonprofit providers and the Housing Authority is necessary, along with use of the General Fund Affordable Housing program.

    Challenging Unjust State Laws

    Q: County Attorney Bill Berryman has recommended inaction on certain issues in order to avoid, in his view, potential conflicts with state law. These issues have included operational funding in TSPLOST, marijuana decriminalization and comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. Citing his interpretations, the Mayor and Commission have elected to take little to no action on these and similar issues. Do you support a different approach, even if it may lead to Athens-Clarke County challenging state law? A: (click to read)
    There exists a spectrum of challenges for localities in Georgia state code, some of which are open to interpretation and reasonable challenge, and some of which are more explicit in their language. When the legal landscape is unfavorable, it is better to acknowledge that circumstance than pretend otherwise. For example, TSPLOST law is very clear on the matter of operational costs for the single-county program approved by ACC voters. On the other hand, lower-scale responses to marijuana possession reflect the layers of responses possible, as witnessed recently by Atlanta’s reduction in penalty. There are always potential pitfalls in localities working counter to state code, particularly when some elements of state leadership have made direct efforts to limit local autonomy (through “bag ban ban” effort, for example). Broadly, when we set a community goal, such as an environment of non-discrimination, we should be able to outline a variety of routes to our goal, including local and statewide efforts, as well as education and direct action. Always continuing to push for improvement is the key need.

    Childcare and Early Childhood Education

    Q: Lack of funding in the CAPS program means that there is an “early learning gap” of over 2,000 children in Athens. There is also a lack of quality rated childcare providers here. Turning this situation around would be quite expensive and difficult, but also extremely important to the lives of many Athenians. Do you support policies that would expand access to childcare subsidies, encourage more childcare providers to become quality rated, and incentivize quality rated providers to accept children receiving subsidies? A: (click to read)
    Yes. The current state grant funded Early Education Empowerment Zone work in Athens should be funded locally if not continued by the state to work toward these goals. The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning should be strongly encouraged to be more heavily funded to raise individual employee center quality in the years ahead. New Jersey has been a model of this that we should look toward statewide. Locally, we can make early learning a priority for funding and collaboration.


    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: (click to read)
    The tactics mentioned above in reference to Black poverty apply here. In addition, Athens can make further strides to encourage positive employment and development patterns, creating a direct effect with stronger labor patterns and wage scales, and spinoff impacts, such as those experienced when the median income increases in our area, and the corresponding value of low-income housing credits also rise, encouraging affordable housing creation. I will encourage reinvestment zones in which ACC can “roll out the red carpet” for redevelopment by funding public infrastructure like stormwater, street trees, paths and sidewalks, and parkspace in areas of need. For enterprises considering greenfield development in other jurisdictions, this will level the playing field and make Athens a more attractive place to build businesses. It will also bring both jobs and amenities that help tie elements of our community together. Along with integrated housing, this approach will usher-in safe, healthy neighborhoods in which all residents can thrive.


    Q: What is your most important policy priority for 2018? A: (click to read)
    Community re-investment, focused on creation of quality housing and expansion of the employment base.

    2016 Questionnaire Responses