Melissa Link

Melissa Link with an A-District 3 Commissioner
Melissa Link’s Facebook page

Melissa is the strongest commissioner by far when it comes to combating the power that big developers and landlords have in our town. She speaks out clearly and loudly on those issues, attempting to get the rest of the local government to hold developers like Landmark Properties accountable for the impact that they have on the environment, rents, historic preservation and more. She is often outvoted, but we trust her judgment on this issue and on many others.

We are disappointed in her caving to the demands of Taylor Saulters’ lawyers to pay him $250,000, and we believe she could be more proactive than reactive in her proposed legislation. There is no question, however, that she has been and continues to be a firm voice and solid vote for progressive change in our town (as with her support of the Linnentown Resolution without reservations), as well as someone who is willing to pore over easement agreements to represent her constituents’ interests.

Professional / Civic Experience
Managing Editor of Ethics & the Environment, University of Georgia Dept. of Philosophy
Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (2011-2014)
Board of Directors, GC3
Advertorial Editor, Athens Banner-Herald (2000-02)
Writer, Calendar Editor, Flagpole (1997-2000)
Boulevard Neighborhood Association (steering committee, Preservation/Environment chair)

East Carolina University, BA in Writing and Art History

Party Affiliation
Primary Ballots: Most always votes in Democratic primaries.
Donations: Donated to Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Inferred Party: Democrat

green check1   Athens Elected Official of 2017!

Athens for Everyone has named Melissa Link the Athens Elected Official of 2017.


green check1   Issues: Living Wages

“I have a hard time justifying a raise across the board benefiting those at the top of the pay scale, while we’re not making a commitment to do the right thing and at the very least pay our year-round part-time employees a living wage.”

Melissa Link, May 17, 2016 Agenda-Setting Session

“Not only is it the right thing to do from a moral and economic standpoint, but it is the way things are going [nationwide].  We need to lay out the groundwork to get everybody in this community to a living wage.”

Melissa Link, June 7, 2016 Voting Session


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

“If there is any entitlement going on, it’s not on the struggling youth in our community who rely on this service. I am extremely excited about this program.”

Melissa Link, August 2, 2016 Voting Session


green check1   Issues: Complete Streets

Melissa has been named “Complete Streets Champion” for 2016 by Complete Streets Athens.


Voting Record

  • 2019
    Reconsideration of Designating SPLOST Projects: YES
    (More information about 2019 votes)

  • 2018
    Cedar Creek Solar Array Project: YES
    Moving Work Sessions to City Hall: YES
    Redesigning the Chase Street Corridor: NO
    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: YES
    (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: YES
    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: YES
    Adopt Securus Tech Contract: NO
    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

    “Yes. Anything we can do to increase ridership & get cars off the road.”

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

    “See above.”

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

    “Bike & ped infrastructure improvements should be at the forefront of consideration for all capital improvement projects.”

    Criminal Justice Reform

    • Do you support marijuana decriminalization? YES

    “We should follow the lead of Georgia cities including Clarkson & Atlanta as well as many entire states across the US.”

    Environmental Sustainability

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

    “Our landfill is rapidly filling up. We need to act quickly to reduce our waste stream or face costly consequences.”

    Racial Justice

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

    “Racial inequality is a scourge in our community. It’s not just about bar access but housing, education, social, & financial access. “

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

    “Discrimination can not be tolerated in a free society.” 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)

    We must pass a dedicated policy to increase minority employment & entrepreneurship opportunities. And it is extremely important that we increase homeownership opportunities for African-Americans in Athens. I would support a “legacy” fund/program that offers home rehabilitation assistance to low-income Black families to encourage them to stay in their homes &/or keep homes in the family where they can appreciate & build wealth–as well as financial assistance to purchase homes in rapidly gentrifying working-class neighborhoods. It is most important that those of us in positions of power make a consistent & concerted effort to inform & include members of the Black community in political & social discourse & create opportunities for empowerment within the Black community. There is also a great deal of work to be done in the school system. ACC government must act in active partnership with CCSD to overcome the massive problem of inequality in our schools–a problem that is rooted in social inequalities.

    Affordable Housing

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

    “The government should not define “family”. Instead property owners should be more accountable for tenant infractions.” 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)

    I have been advocating vehemently for an inclusionary zoning policy in Athens. This is just one of many, many tools we should be utilizing to increase affordable housing in our community. We must also consider changes to zoning & design guidelines to protect existing affordable housing and mandate or incentivize private developers to properly meet the needs for a diverse selection of affordable housing in areas with proper access to jobs, services, & transportation choices.

    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)
    Yes, the state has shown little initiative in challenging other communities that have implemented such legislation, why would they start with Athens?

    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. This is a place where I feel Athens Leisure Services Department should step up to meet the needs with quality & affordable early childhood programming as well as after-school programs located within high-need communities. These programs could be done in partnership with non-profits & UGA to reduce costs, open access to grant funding, diversify programming, & increase accountability in the community.


    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)
    We need to encourage employers to pay a living wage. State law prevents us from mandating this, but we could incentivize it via demands for community benefits agreements & taxation methods. Increased youth development & entrepreneurship programs can help as well as better access to affordable child care & transportation to make working low-income families lives easier.


    Q: What is your most important policy priority for 2018? A: (click to read)
    Affordable housing is a dire need and there is no single silver bullet to effectively solve this. We must implement a multitude of policies & ordinances to assure that hard-working Athenians can afford to continue to live in their beloved Athens. We must act immediately to create and implement a multi-pronged affordable housing plan in our community. It has been over two years since the Workforce Housing Study clearly stated the problems & steps to address them have been minimal. It is also important to note that artists & musicians depend upon affordable housing–communities that provide have vibrant arts & music scenes. These are the people who put Athens on the map and as our housing becomes less & less affordable many longstanding members of our creative community are leaving Athens for more affordable living situations in outer counties and beyond & fewer young creative types are financially able to settle down in our town. The cultural & economic impact of Athens’ artists & musicians is invaluable. If we lose them, we lose a huge chunk of our soul!

    2016 Questionnaire Responses