Kelly Girtz was an intern for child protective services and a hospital homebound teacher before he dove into politics. Now, he’s running for Athens-Clarke County mayor.
Girtz worked with child protective services in the summer of 1993 where he was engaged in “on-the-ground work.” He worked with a case worker and interviewed children who were experiencing neglect.
He then transitioned into public education. Working as a hospital homebound teacher, Girtz would visit students who were on long-term disability.
“[That] heightened my interest just by getting me out into the community like it did,” Girtz said.
Eventually, he ended up at Classic City High School where he encouraged service and work-based learning to his students.
“I can’t ignore that Athens isn’t everything that it can be.” - Kelly Girtz, 2018 mayoral candidate
For Girtz, having that kind of daily integration with people’s lives has lent a perspective different than one acquired through going into an office every day.
“I’ve learned so much from 12 year olds I’ve taught and from people in the real estate brokerage business because they all bring something to the table,” Girtz said.
Girtz has served as ACC District 9 commissioner since 2007. With his experience in local politics and what he saw as a need to improve Athens, Girtz officially announced his campaign for mayor on May 18, 2017.
“[I’m] deeply committed to quality life for everybody who lives here,” Girtz said. “What drives me in my work is the notion that I don’t think any child in this community should have any less of an opportunity than my own son.”
“Because I’ve been able to have these disparate experiences in Athens from being a big arts and music fan to working in public education to working on the commission in business interests, I’ve really just seen, in a big way, how those things interact,” Girtz said. “You have to pay attention to all of it.”
As for his top priorities if elected mayor, Girtz plans to focus on inclusion and opportunity.
“Historically, there’s always been a component of Athens that has been enormously successful … [but] at the same time we’ve got this persistent poverty that has plagued Athens for nearly all its life.”
Although Athens has a low unemployment rate, poverty remains high, and there is a large population of the working poor, Girtz said.
“I’ve sat in people’s dining rooms, in their trailers, and had conversations with my students and their parents about their lives’ needs,” he said. “I can’t ignore that Athens isn’t everything that it can be.”
Mayoral terms last four years, and a candidate can run for two consecutive terms.
“I will work diligently for eight years,” Girtz said.