February 21, 2018

Harry Sims Officially Kicks Off Mayoral Campaign

City Dope

Photo Credit: Lamon Carson

Harry Sims officially kicks off his mayoral campaign Friday, Feb. 16 at Fire Station 9 on Danielsville Road.

Declaring that he would “serve all of the people, not just some of the people,” former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims formally launched his bid for mayor on Friday, Feb. 16 at Fire Station 9 off Danielsville Road.

The location holds symbolic value. The longtime commissioner—who resigned last week to set up a special election for his seat May 22—chose it as an illustration of his belief that the local government caters to some Athens citizens while ignoring others. The northeastern side of Athens had no fire station, and Sims fought for years to have one built there. Instead, ACC built a new fire station in Five Points first, in spite of the fact that Five Points already had a fire station. Meanwhile, Sims said, the long drive from the downtown station meant that any mobile home in the area that caught fire burned to the ground before firefighters could arrive.

“I wasn’t OK with that then, and I’m not OK with that now,” he said.

Sims didn’t list any specific policies in his announcement speech—those will be rolled out plank by plank as the campaign goes on, according to co-chairman Jeff Snowden—but he laid out a general philosophy of governing. Similar to Mayor Nancy Denson describing herself as the “common-sense choice,” Sims said he would be a check on progressives on the county commission.

“No matter what comes through the commission, it would have to pass through me as mayor,” he said. “It has to get [put] on the agenda by the mayor, so you will have someone who is speaking for you.”

Sims said he would represent working people, small business owners and minorities: “the silent ones, the busy ones, the forgotten ones—those who need government most of all,” as he put it.

In coded terms, Sims accused progressives of being hypocrites. “We say we want affordable housing, then we make it too expensive for you to get a house,” he said. “We say we want better wages, but then we run investors across the county line. We can’t pretend we have a government for all the people if all the people can’t use it.”

Who are the people who can use it? Sims didn’t say, but anyone who follows local politics knows he’s referring to the primarily white, primarily liberal residents of intown neighborhoods like Boulevard, Cobbham, Normaltown and Five Points who are generally the likeliest to pack commission chambers and are sometimes accused by those outside the Loop of getting special treatment.

“For a long time, this government has been moving in a direction that we put the oil on the squeaky wheel,” he said. “As a result of that, I want to be the voice for those who don’t squeak, for those who have the needs, but they don’t have the time, because they work two, three, four jobs sometimes, and so they can’t get down to the commission meetings. They can’t come to us and say, ‘We need this, and we need that.’ As a result, they don’t get it.”

Of course, many of the people who are regulars at the City Hall podium are busy people with families and multiple jobs, too, but Sims does have a point in that, for whatever reason, many neighborhoods are not organized and thus can be left out of the process.

“If you’re tired of a government run by putting oil on the squeaky wheel, I’m your man,” Sims said. “If you’re tired of your needs coming behind those with the free time to show up at the commission meetings, I am your man.”