May 2024 ElectionNewsNews Features

Pizzeria Owner ‘Mama Sid’ Challenges Incumbent Eastside Commissioner Carol Myers

Carol Myers (eft) and Sidney Waters

Former Clarke County School Board member Sidney Waters is challenging incumbent Carol Myers in the District 8 Athens-Clarke County Commission race. 

The lines of the district have changed since Myers was elected in 2020, with more students and fewer single-family neighborhoods. Both candidates said that one of the most important things for them is creating a place for Eastside youth “to hang out with their friends and have fun,” as Waters put it.

Myers said that the planned Eastside Youth Center, along with the new Eastside public library, will give young people “an opportunity to use two wonderful facilities.” The decision on where to build the library is coming soon, according to Myers, who chairs the site selection committee. She wants both projects to provide easy access to multi-family neighborhoods on Barnett Shoals and Gaines School and to the area’s public schools.

Waters said she’s concerned that “we are creating new Linnentowns,” referring to a neighborhood near campus where Black residents were forced out during 1960s urban renewal so that UGA could build high-rise residence halls. “It bothers me that a developer can come in and buy a large area and raise rents or build something and make those people move out,” she said. “Where did those people go? As a city, we are allowing large developments without having concerns about where the tenants and homeowners are going.”

Waters also said she saw buses unloading people at the QuikTrip station on the Oconee Connector, and watched as those people started walking toward Athens, carrying their pillows and belongings. She blames an influx of newcomers on a resolution, passed by the commission in 2019, that welcomes everyone to Athens, regardless of their race, religion or creed, whether or not they are documented. Although the resolution was passed during a televised public meeting and covered in newspapers, Waters said that “people in the county didn’t know about it,” leading her to say she wants more transparency from the county government. In a March interview on Fox News announcing her candidacy, she criticized ACC’s “sanctuary-style” policies. At a commission meeting following an undocumented Venezuelan man’s arrest on charges of murdering nursing student Laken Riley, Waters compared immigrants coming from Latin America to those who came from Europe through Ellis Island.

“They worked hard to try to make a better life than they had had in Europe and in other countries,” she said. “What we have now is a group of people, a large group of people who do not come for a hand up, they come for a hand out. There’s a lot of difference there.”

At a recent candidate forum, Waters said she would vote to repeal the resolution, though it’s not a law that can be repealed. She also has a problem with Mayor Kelly Girtz supporting refugee resettlement in 2022 and 2023 letters to the U.S. State Department.

Myers has walked through the district, talking to residents about their concerns, which include stormwater issues, potholes, the Eastside library and the Kroger development. Most of the people she has talked to seem pretty content, she said.

She created an initiative to bring together leaders of district neighborhoods and subdivisions on the Eastside. They’ve been holding monthly meetings to get to know each other and have created an Eastside Corridor Vision Plan. Working with the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, they have secured $30,000 for public art in the Gaines School/Barnett Shoals area and are working on visioning an Eastside corridor with pro bono work from local architects and landscape architect firms.

The group is drafting some T-SPLOST proposals for making intersections on the Eastside safer for pedestrians. Better street safety for pedestrians, motor vehicles and cyclists is a concern for Myers. Also of concern is better EMS services—advocates contend there’s a poor response time and a lack of paramedics for Eastside residents.

Prior to serving on the commission, Myers chaired the Athens in Motion Commission that crafted the county’s bike and pedestrian master plan. She is also a strong supporter of 100% Athens, an initiative to put the local government entirely on clean energy by 2035 and the whole community by 2050. 

Waters—better known as “Mama Sid”—owns an Eastside pizzeria and served on the Clarke County Board of Education from 1997–2008. She moved to Athens from Auburn, AL in 1977.

This post has been updated to correct details about Waters’ biography.