ACC Commissioner Jerry NeSmith will have a challenge from the left this year, as progressive activist Jesse Houle announced they're running against the District 6 incumbent.
Houle was part of Occupy Athens and one of the cofounders of Athens for Everyone, the group that grew out of Commissioner Tim Denson’s failed 2014 mayoral campaign and later helped elect a slate of progressive candidates to the Mayor and Commission. Houle is also a musician, operations manager at Nuci’s Space and a fixture at the podium during the commission’s public comment periods.
Houle’s platform includes: support for a resolution seeking recognition and redress for the Linnentown neighborhood destroyed by urban renewal, fare-free transit and expanded service, extending city trash and recycling pickup to outlying parts of the county, a tenant’s bill of rights, eliminating unpaid labor and reforming the police department with unarmed first responders trained in de-escalation.
“We are so close to having enough political will in City Hall to make real change in this community,” Houle said in a news release. “To do so we need commissioners with a vision for change and courage to take action.”
NeSmith has served on the commission representing the Atlanta Highway area since 2012, and is perhaps best known for his efforts to revitalize that corridor. He has a strong progressive track record on many issues—supporting criminal justice reform and pushing for transit expansion, for example—but has occasionally clashed with some of his newer colleagues.
Houle will host a campaign kickoff party Sunday, Mar. 1 from 2–4 p.m. at the Atlanta Highway brewpub Akademia.
Flagpole has previously reported that lawyer and former school board candidate Kamau Hull will be running for the District 8 seat Andy Herod is leaving, but Hull also issued a news release this week formally announcing his candidacy. He will kick off his campaign with an event at Cool World Ice Cream Shop, a black-owned business on the Eastside, Saturday from 3–5 p.m.
Hull, a Cedar Shoals High School graduate, said he wants to add programming for adults and children to reduce recidivism and the school-to-prison pipeline, as well as bring a library to the Eastside (which is already in the works as part of SPLOST 2020).
“I believe Athens-Clarke County, and District 8, in particular, needs more equitable governance than we have,” he said. “Not only in economic governance, but also in the distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities within our community and government.”
Other announced candidates include retired educator Carol Myers and couples’ therapist Andrea Farnham. Myers is organizing volunteers to go door-to-door this Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Eastside Cali N Tito’s starting at 10:30 a.m.
This post has been update to correct Houle's preferred pronoun.