Tommy Valentine to announce run for Athens-Clarke commission seat Sunday

A November 2016 Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.com file photo shows Tommy Valentine, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia and local political activist, during an Athens-Clarke County Commission at Athens City Hall. Valentine will announce his candidacy for a county commission seat at 2 p.m. Sunday at Lay Park off Hoyt Street in the northern edge of downtown Athens. (File photo / Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.com)

Tommy Valentine, a doctoral student in the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs whose experience includes work as a business owner, management consultant and civil rights advocate, will announce his bid for a seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission at 2 p.m. Sunday at Lay Park in the edge of downtown Athens.

 

Valentine, who has lived in Athens for more than 20 years, is seeking the District 9 seat on the commission. The district skirts the northern edge of downtown Athens from Barber Street eastward, and expands across the northern portion of the county to include the area from Spring Valley Road to Nowhere Road, encompassing much of the county’s industrial area and the homes of many in the local Latino community.

The District 9 seat is currently held by Kelly Girtz, a three-term commissioner who is making a bid for mayor in the May 2018 nonpartisan election that will also feature the District 9 race.

Valentine has come to local political prominence in recent months as part of the effort to address allegedly discriminatory practices in downtown Athens bars and other businesses. In that role, and on other issues, he has been a regular presence during the public comment periods at the monthly voting meetings of the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

Last October, Valentine wrote a commentary for the Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.com editorial page advocating the creation of a county-backed civil rights committee that would collect citizen input, advise the local government on anti-discrimination measures, direct citizen complaints and inquiries to the proper entities, and offer businesses information on how best to ensure that all customers feel welcome.

“In Athens, about 4 of every 10 residents is non-white,” Valentine wrote. “That can be hard to tell when walking around local businesses. One simply has to walk through downtown Athens to see that many of our neighbors do not feel welcome. Where is our diversity? Despite our friendly reputation, have we been inhospitable?”

Valentine has been laying the groundwork for his run for the District 9 seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission since September of last year, hosting bimonthly community meetings to, in the words of his campaign page on Facebook, “develop a bold new vision for the future of our city.”

According to Valentine’s campaign website, those meetings have involved “local community leaders, neighbors, activists and entrepreneurs,” and the vision that is emerging from those meetings is one that “offers opportunity, justice, and prosperity to all that live here.”

In a campaign video, Valentine said that specifics regarding that vision will be a part of his formal Sunday announcement of his commission bid.

“This campaign is about not being politics as usual,” Valentine says in the video. “We have to stop talking the same way, and acting the same way, and putting on the same masks.”

And, he adds, “It’s critical that we understand how hard the work is going to be.”

 

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