Editors’ Note: This is the final part of our series, “Get to know your local government!” by Avery Murdie. We provide a history of A4E’s relationship with each commissioner, and links to questionnaires where you can learn more about their stances on local issues.
If you would like to learn about the powerful positions of the Mayor and Manager, you can read part two in our series, or read part one for an introduction to the Athens Clarke-County Unified Government.
Overview of the Commission
Athens-Clarke County Unified Government has 10 commissioners serving four-year terms. Half of the commission is up for re-election every two years.
Figuring out who your commissioner is
As we mentioned in the first part of our series on getting to know your local government, of constituent concern is the fact that if a person is not sure what District they live in, there is currently no online tool they can access to quickly and efficiently look this up. Not sure what District you live in? You have two options. First, you could grab a magnifying glass and a District map and guess.
Or you could contact the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections office at 706-613-3150 to find out for sure. That’s it.
Districts and Commissioners
District # 1 – Sharyn Dickerson
Sharyn Dickerson is the District 1 commissioner. With an MPA from the University of Georgia, she is the President of Sharyn Dickerson & Associates, LLC (a business managements consulting firm).
A4E Perspective: Dickerson has not always supported Athens for Everyone initiatives and has often argued against them using conservative talking points.
District # 2 – Harry Sims
Harry Sims is the District 2 commissioner. A retired Fifth grade teacher, Mr. Sims holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Georgia.
A4E Perspective: Sims has given decades of service to our community, but in recent years has become disengaged on several issues. Many constituents report he is unresponsive when contacted. If not in opposition, he is often dismissive to A4E initiatives and proposals.
District # 3 – Melissa Link
Link is a tireless advocate for progressive policies and values.
Melissa Link is the District 3 commissioner. Currently a managing editor for a peer-reviewed journal at the University of Georgia, she was a UGA graduate in 1993.
A4E Perspective: Link is a tireless advocate for progressive policies and values. She is a strong supporter of Athens for Everyone initiatives and represents an elected official who works for all members of our Athens community.
At the A4E 2017 Annual Members’ Meeting, Melissa Link was awarded the Athens Elected Official of the Year Award!
District # 4 – Allison Wright
Allison Wright is the District 4 commissioner. With an Master of Science from the Medical College of Georgia Medical Illustration, Ms. Wright is a self-employed Certified Medical Illustrator.
A4E Perspective: Wright is well-intentioned and responsive to her constituents. She is also a more cautious and reserved elected official. Wright has not spearheaded any original legislation of her own and has, at times, been silent at critical moments on progressive issues.
District # 5 – Jared Bailey
Jared Bailey is the District 5 commissioner. Mr. Bailey has B.B.A. in Business Management from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business.
A4E Perspective: Bailey has been an ally to A4E, including in the struggle for an Athens Civil Rights Committee. In his second term, he seems largely disengaged and disheartened. He often votes ideologically similar with A4E, but rarely initiates progressive change. We wish he would take a more active role in fighting for a community that works for all of us.
District # 6 – Jerry NeSmith
Jerry NeSmith is the District 6 commissioner. He is the director of information systems at the University of Georgia’s office for research.
A4E Perspective: NeSmith has been an ally to A4E on most issues. He is an especially passionate advocate on environmental issues.
District # 7 – Diane Bell
Diane Bell is the District 7 commissioner. She is the owner and a stylist at A Flair with Hair in Five Points.
A4E Perspective: Bell has not been a supporter of Athens for Everyone initiatives and has largely remained a silent, inactive commissioner. A4E would like to see a commissioner that is committed to the hard work of fighting poverty and inequality, as well as one that works to transform our community into one that works for all of its members.
District # 8 – Andy Herod
Andy Herod is the District 8 commissioner. With a Ph.D. in Economic and Urban Geography from Rutgers, Mr. Herod is a Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia.
A4E Perspective: Herod has usually been an opponent of A4E initiatives. Often thought of as being “progressive”, his rhetoric and action behind the rail do not back that claim. Many constituents report that he is dismissive of them or their concerns.
District # 9 – Kelly Girtz
Kelly Girtz is the District 9 commissioner. With a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Mr. Girtz is the Assistant Director for Student Services of Foothills Charter High School.
A4E Perspective: Girtz is a solid ally and supporter of Athens for Everyone and A4E’s initiatives. He is both a strong communicator and has a strong commitment to progressivism. Girtz has proven to be skilled at researching and crafting progressive policy.
District # 10 – Mike Hamby
Mike Hamby is the District 10 commissioner. With a master’s degree in Instructional Design from the University of Georgia, Mr. Hamby is the owner of a small office cleaning business and publisher of Athens Believer magazine.
A4E Perspective: Hamby has not been a supporter of Athens for Everyone initiatives and has made completely inappropriate personal attacks against his fellow commissioner, Ms. Link.
Mayor and Commission Committees
There are only three standing committees for the Mayor and commissioners. The Mayor decides what is sent to Committee, and both the Government Operations Committee and the Legislative Review Committee usually meet once a month. The committees are open to the public, but they will not take public comments unless the Committee Chairperson specifically requests information from the public. Session dates, online viewing, and the Committee calendar can be viewed here. Agendas are available as well.
- Audit Committee
- Diane Bell, Chair
- Jared Bailey
- Sharyn Dickerson
- Kelly Girtz
- Allison Wright
- Government Operations Committee
- Andy Herod, Chair
- Diane Bell
- Kelly Girtz
- Mike Hamby
- Melissa Link
- Legislative Review
- Jerry NeSmith, Chair
- Jared Bailey
- Sharyn Dickerson
- Harry Sims
- Allison Wright
This concludes our series, Get to Know Your Local Government. If you would like to learn about the powerful positions of the Mayor and Manager, you can read part two in our series, or read part one for an introduction to the Athens Clarke-County Unified Government.
As mentioned in the story, you can learn more about the commissioners and their stances on issues by visiting the ACC Commission pages on this website.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Commissioner Jared Bailey was part of the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Foundation. Mr. Bailey served on the foundation between 2007-2009.
Avery Murdie, April 19, 2017
Adam Lassila contributed to this story.
Photos and maps used with permission, courtesy of Jason Harwell, Public Information Media Analyst, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government.by