A4E endorses Kelly Girtz for Mayor of Athens

When Kelly Girtz launched his campaign for mayor on the lawn outside the Lyndon House Arts Center, he started by acknowledging the people who’d been kicked off the land nearby. The government forcibly removed first the Creek Indians and later did the same to working-class African-Americans. Athenians love to talk about how great Athens is, but any serious mayoral campaign needs to address its biggest flaw: deep, systemic inequality. Kelly has been working to help Athens — ALL of Athens — since being elected as a commissioner in 2006, and as mayor he’ll help move us forward toward an Athens that works for all of us.

Kelly’s main opponent in this race, Commissioner Harry Sims, has put decades of work into the Athens community, especially the Black community that has been systematically held down by economic exclusion, mass incarceration and discrimination. As a school teacher, he helped educate our community’s youth, and countless former students regard him as a critical mentor as they’ve made their way in the world. His work for various charities and at East Friendship Baptist Church also show his commitment to making Athens better. Unfortunately, as a commissioner and mayoral candidate Sims has not supported the concrete policy changes needed to address Athens’ unacceptable poverty rate and racialized inequality. The third candidate, Richie Knight, is a strong supporter of anti-discrimination efforts but lacks Commissioner Girtz’ deep knowledge of policy and clear commitment to progressive solutions to our community’s problems.

Kelly’s years of experience in the public school system give him a ground-level understanding of the obstacles that stand in the way of Black and Latinx success in Athens. His three terms as a commissioner have given him hands-on experience guiding our local government and shaping policy. But he’s also spent time in family environments, as a parent; as a service-industry worker; and in state prisons, as an educator. This breadth of experience is a huge point in his favor, but it wouldn’t mean anything if his politics weren’t good.

Kelly has specific ideas for addressing inequality, like a SPLOST program to support affordable housing rather than relying on developers to do the right thing or the market to stop chasing dollars. He wants to improve the county’s minority contracting policy, expand youth employment through local government (the Great Promises Partnership) and help mid-career workers find a way out of low-wage employment into something better. He doesn’t believe that people are poor because they lack the will to become rich, and his policies show it.

Kelly stands with Athens for Everyone on key elements of our platform, like fare-free public transit for all, marijuana decriminalization and expanding affordable quality child care. These aren’t empty promises. He has well-thought-out, step-by-step plans to achieve these goals, in keeping with his emphasis on transparency, because he knows government can’t function properly unless it operates in the sunshine. While we would sometimes like to see Kelly stand more unequivocally on the side of popular mobilizations and transformative policies, even when it’s hard or unpopular, his commitment to doing what’s right for this town and its people is clear and his knowledge of governance and the challenges facing Athens is very impressive. He’s the best of the candidates to be a mayor who works with a new commission and a hopeful community to turn Athens in the direction of justice for all of us. Let’s elect Kelly Girtz, alongside a progressive commission, and then let’s keep building an engaged, energized movement that holds them to their promises and drives toward change with the urgency our community deserves.

You can learn more about Kelly on our website and support him directly by visiting his.

Athens for Everyone
April 19, 2018

Early voting starts April 30.
Election Day is May 22.


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