The Clarke County Board of Education voted 6–2 Thursday night for Frances Berry, a well-known volunteer in progressive circles, to fill the District 2 seat recently vacated by Vernon Payne.
The vote followed a plea from BOE member Linda Davis to choose a black person for the position—namely, former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims—since the school district is majority black. Only a black person, she said, can understand what it’s like to live as a black person. “It’s one thing to have theories and another to live like that,” she said.
Board member Greg Davis said he was voting for Berry because she wouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo, which he said was failing the district’s students by not offering them the skills needed to get good jobs. Three young women joined the school board last year, he said, referring to Kara Dyckman, LaKeisha Gantt and Tawana Mattox, and he wanted to add a fourth. Berry’s training as a counselor, and as a teacher of counselors, should serve students well, Greg Davis said.
Every time she drives along 316 toward Athens, Stacey Evans feels a slight thrill, remembering when she first came to the University of Georgia from Ringgold. She was the first person in her family to attend college, and she couldn’t have done so without the HOPE Scholarship.
“This is where life started for me,” she told those attending Thursday’s meeting of the Clarke County Democratic Party. At the university, she became involved with the Young Democrats, thinking that doing so would give her a chance to help families like the one she had come from.
Evans showed a brief video about her background, including her hardscrabble, rural childhood. Viewers learned that her single mother had her as a teenager, held various menial jobs and went through a series of boyfriends, some abusive, before marrying Evans’ stepfather. Evans moved 16 times as a child, one step ahead of bill collectors.
After decades of service as a Democrat, Athens Mayor Nancy Denson is no longer a member of the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee.
Members voted Thursday night to remove her after she violated the committee’s bylaws. She did so by hosting a fundraiser for the Republican candidate for House District 117 (formerly held by Regina Quick) though Democrat Deborah Gonzalez is also running.
Denson has said she understood a special election to be nonpartisan, but candidates are nevertheless required to register with a political party in a “jungle primary,” where all candidates are listed on the ballot together, so she was staging an event for a registered Republican, Houston Gaines. She also contributed $1,000 to his campaign. Gaines was her campaign manager in the 2014 mayoral race.
Photo Credit: Rebecca McCarthy
Republican U.S. Representative Jody Hice was in Athens on Monday. Unless you were eating fried chicken, vegetables and salad in the Holiday Inn with the genial Classic City Rotary Club, you probably didn’t see him. And you’re not going to—at least not in a town hall meeting.
Open to the public, a town hall meeting is what many congressmen traditionally hold in their districts during a recess in Washington to find out the concerns of their many constituents. Hice may have a “coffee with the congressman” in other parts of the district with a small number of invited guests, or he may meet with Athens Republicans, but that’s about it in Athens-Clarke County.
Rotary club meetings are open only to members and guests of members. Outside the Holiday Inn and at the Arch on Monday, a few people gathered to protest Hice’s reluctance to hold a town meeting in Athens. The signs read, “Am I scary?” and “Be brave host Athens town hall” and “Where is Jody Hice.” With Donald Trump receiving 28 percent of the vote in our community, a public reception for a Republican representative would likely yield more questions that what Hice fielded from the Rotary Club.
There were a few questions at the Monday meeting—one member asked about Do Not Call and another asked about Fair Tax. Hice said he’s working on tax reform, which includes cutting corporate taxes, reducing tax forms to the size of a postage stamp and making the IRS a service-oriented agency. He said there’s no constitutional authority for the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Department of Education to exist, and he wants the country to return to a “constitutional form of government.” He also said “some of these agencies have budgets the size of small countries’.”
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