NewsNews Features

District 1: Sharyn Dickerson Answers Our Questions

Sharyn Dickerson

Age: 46

Occupation: Environmental consultant

Party: None

Address: 317 Blue Heron Drive

Phone: 706-296-7240



Athens-Clarke County has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. What should the local government be doing to alleviate poverty?

One way the local government can help work to alleviate poverty is to continue working within our community—the Clarke County school board, area not-for-profit agencies, civic groups, businesses and individual citizens—to address the needs of those who are currently struggling to find jobs and/or affordable housing. In addition, the local government should continue to apply for Community Development Block Grant funds from the federal government. These funds provide resources to our community for a number of services including housing and job opportunities for those living in poverty. Having been born and raised in Athens, I know our citizens to be some of the most generous with their time and money. I am confident that by continuing to work together in a spirit of giving, we can tackle the issue of poverty within our community.

Downtown development has been a major issue the past few years. Is this a good trend for Athens, and if not, how can we curb it and/or encourage development other than student apartments?

Downtown development has been a major issue since the early 1980s, when the mall came to town. Back then, there were very few apartments downtown. Generally, downtown development has been geared toward addressing the needs and desires of the college-age demographic. So apartments have become a mainstay, as have retail bars and restaurants. However, students are only here nine months our of the year and are not the only ones who want to enjoy our downtown area. If the community wants to encourage other development, then downtown needs to appeal to more than the college-age crowd. The ADDA’s Downtown Athens Master Plan may be a good place to start.

Do you support expanding Athens Transit, reducing fares and/or exploring a merger with the UGA bus system? If so, how would you pay for it?

If the data suggests it is needed and funding is available, then I would support expanding Athens Transit System. Non-UGA passenger fares  only cover less than 12 percent of the cost to run bus service, so I don’t support reducing fares. Merging Athens Transit with UGA’s bus system would likely not only be legally challenging, but also may not be of interest to UGA or the Board of Regents.

Athens is often pigeonholed as “business unfriendly.” Do you support easing restrictions on businesses? If so, which ones?

There are always two sides to every story and, having worked 14 years for the local government, I know this first-hand. So I don’t think all the blame is shouldered by one group. However, when I hear a developer tell me they will never develop another project in our community again because it took them three times as long to build a building here than anywhere else, then something apparently is wrong and needs to be addressed. The local government’s responsibility to taxpayers is to figure out what’s at the root of this problem and fix it.    

The Eastside is lagging behind downtown and the Westside in terms of growth. What would you do to encourage investment in the Eastside?

Local officials should meet with area residents and businesses to identify a list of questions and economic concerns for the Highway 78 East corridor; similar to the Atlanta Highway Corridor study. This list could identify goals to be incorporated into an action plan; perhaps with help from the Urban Land Institute. Another way to attract Eastside investment is to utilize available economic tools and incentives, like opportunity zones (the Eastside has some). Currently, Eastside residents must drive an hour round-trip to the Atlanta Highway corridor for any major department store shopping or for a wider variety of restaurant dining. Not only is it time-consuming, but it adds traffic to an already congested Atlanta Highway. Establishing a plan should be a priority. Once that happens, investment along the Highway 78 East corridor will be more likely to occur.

What other issues concern you?

Two other issues continue to come up when I am out speaking with citizens. One is the need for a “turn on green arrow only” signal change in both Lexington Road/Highway 78 turn lanes at the intersection of Whit Davis Road. Accidents are rampant there because cars in both Lexington Highway turn lanes block each other’s view of oncoming traffic. A signal change is desperately needed. The other is the need to evaluate the legalization of backyard chickens for residents living in non-agricultural zones or on lots less than one acre in size. Chickens have many benefits, such as providing food for families, laying healthier eggs than ones bought in stores, and controlling flies and other pests.