City DopeNews

Mayor Girtz Defends the ACC Government’s Record on Public Safety

Mayor Kelly Girtz delivers his annual State of the Community address at the Lyndon House Arts Center.

Mayor Kelly Girtz led off his annual State of the Community Address last month by defending the local government’s track record on public safety.

Noting “our shared pain from those we have lost to violence”—mentioning by name Laken Riley, 3-year-old Kyran Zarco-Smith and Winterville resident Willie Jewell—Girtz said the Athens-Clarke County government will “continue to lean into making this an ever-safer community through any means necessary.”

Specifically, Girtz discussed the city’s new real-time crime center, ballistics identification system, additional cameras and four-wheelers to patrol recreational trails. “If you inflict damage on our residents, we will capture you, and we will do this quickly,” he said.

Girtz also touted crime prevention efforts like neighborhood leaders who connect residents in need with services and benefits, partnering with the Clarke County School District and the Boys & Girls Club on youth programs, and affordable housing projects like the North Downtown Project (formerly Bethel Midtown Village) and an Athens Housing Authority development near Athens Tech, as well as a senior- and assisted-living facility on Atlanta Highway, a Habitat for Humanity “tiny-ish” homes development near Firefly Trail, a partnership with the Athens Land Trust to save historic homes on Reese Street, and the formation of a stronger Homeless Coalition.

Also related to public safety, Girtz said the government continues to train more firefighters in emergency medical response, is implementing a local road safety plan, and is about two years away from completing Firefly Trail, giving Eastside and downtown residents a safe place to walk and bike.

“This is all part of our journey to being an even more welcoming and supportive community for all who come here,” he said.

Girtz also touted Meissner, a California-based company that manufactures medical equipment that is slated to break ground later this year on a 300,000 square-foot facility off Spring Valley Road that will eventually employ up to 1,700 people.

“Our strong system of infrastructure; not just roads and trails, but also fiber data—with both locally and federally funded upgrades, along with a strong water and sewer system—allow

our Economic Development Department to pursue high-wage employment, as they did with attracting Meissner to Athens last year,” Girtz said. “This 1,600-employee strong enterprise, breaking ground this year, is an enormous addition to our area’s biotech industry, one of the cornerstones of our contemporary economic development efforts. 

“We will strengthen this employment pipeline in 2024 with the addition of the biotech pathway at the Athens Community Career Academy, allowing local high school students to get on the path to career success in this field early, and aligning with world-class efforts at Athens Technical College and the University of Georgia.”

As became tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic, Girtz released the speech on video Mar. 29 rather than deliver it to a live audience. It is available for viewing at