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Melissa Link Wins Commission District 2 Special Election

Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link will be back behind the rail next month after winning a special election to fill the District 2 seat left open by the resignation of Mariah Parker.

Link received 531 votes to former school board member Kirrena Gallagher’s 307. Turnout was just 11%—not unexpected for a special election where both candidates said that voters were suffering from fatigue after a hard-fought U.S. Senate runoff just three months ago, and that many were confused by the new district lines drawn by Athens’ Republican state legislators over local objections.

Link previously represented about two-thirds of the district before the 2022 redistricting, so she ultimately prevailed running as the de facto incumbent. She dominated in the Chase Street Elementary and Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary precincts (Boulevard and Normaltown), and won narrowly at Lay Park (Pulaski Heights and Newtown) and Clarke Central High (Rocksprings, the Hancock Corridor and Brooklyn). Gallagher won Howard B. Stroud Elementary (East Athens), but only 29 votes were cast there.

Link’s politics also aligned with Parker’s more often than not, though Parker was occasionally further to the left on issues like police funding. Link emphasized her expertise in affordable housing, transportation and preserving Black neighborhoods honed over two decades as an activist and elected official, while Gallagher presented herself as a fresh face putting youth programs front and center, but acknowledged she was not well-versed on planning and zoning issues.

Parker resigned in September to take a job as a union organizer in Atlanta. Link is expected to take office before the commission’s next voting meeting Apr. 4. She will serve out the remaining two years of Parker’s term, which ends in January 2025.