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District 3 Commission Candidate Melissa Link Speaks

Commissioner George Maxwell is retiring from District 3.

From Melissa Link:

I was born in Washington, DC in the hospital that my mother continues to work in as a nurse. I grew up in the suburbs in Prince George's County, MD, where I attended Frederick Douglass Sr. High.

Family vacations were spent visiting my paternal grandparents in Pittsburgh where my grandmother took the bus into downtown every day to her job at a department store beauty salon, or visiting my mom's extended family in Brooklyn where I fell in love with the idea of running down to the avenue for a slice of pizza or a few groceries and being able to hop on a subway or bus to see the sights of Manhattan.

These experiences fostered my appreciation for urban living and public transportation. My passion for the environment and historic preservation was nurtured during summer vacations spent at my great-grandfather's circa 1787 farm house in the very rural Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts--a house that I recently discovered was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

I attended East Carolina University in North Carolina where I double majored in Writing & Art History. I landed in Athens in 1993 to pursue graduate work in Art History & soon got sucked into the local creative community--the rest is history….

I've been approached about running for local office from several directions for the past couple of years and would not consider it while either Jared or George was my commissioner—I’ve been very happy with the positions taken by both of them on nearly every issue. I hoped George would stick around, but I can understand why he’s ready to step down--it's been a tough couple of years. George & I have talked about my running & he is very supportive. I share his concerns about the many issues affecting the poor in our community and I've actually spent most of my adult life working multiple low-income jobs to make ends meet (I still do) and can personally relate to the estimated half of our population who struggle economically. I've also been offered tremendous support from the arts, music, & environmentalist communities as well as quite a few local business owners and seasoned local politicos.  

I know my casual persona, vocal activism, & critical approach is a turn-off to some, but many don't realize that I've been deeply involved behind the scenes in many collaborative community initiatives for the better part of two decades: Athens Area Arts Council founding board member, AthFest board, Athens Bicentennial Celebration committee, BNA steering committee for nearly 10 years, founding secretary & former prez of the Blvd Gardening Club, Certified Master Gardener, Cultural Affairs Commission (appointed by Mayor & commission, served as project manager for the Rocksprings Pool public art project), People For a Better Athens, & the Georgia Climate Change Coalition board. For many years, I've been a regular attendee at M&C committee meetings, work sessions, agenda setting sessions, & voting meetings as well as Planning Commission, HPC, & ADDA meetings and other random public meetings regarding Partners for a Prosperous Athens, Prince Ave Corridor, Downtown Master Plan, Economic Task Force, Atl Hwy Redevelopment, Athens Transit, Leisure Services master plan, etc. The inner workings of local government has been my obsession for quite some time, and I've been eyeing it closely since my early years in Athens when I often covered these issues for Flagpole in the late 90s. The three years I spent as the advertorial editor at the ABH gave me particular insight into the local business community as well as the real estate & development communities.

I already communicate regularly with many commissioners & staff members & I feel like I could easily transition into a commissioner's role with my homework thoroughly done and a passion for research to buffer this background. I have very few family responsibilities (my husband can take care of himself & the dog most of the time) and my regular job as the managing editor of an environmental ethics journal out of UGA's Philosophy Dept is not full-time and affords some flexibility. In other words, serving as a commissioner would mean very little in the way of lifestyle change for me. A run for local office has been at the back of my brain for quite a while and recent events have made it clear that now it the time to act.

Athens is a special place. Our bustling historic downtown is teeming with local businesses. From our friendly neighborhoods, to our rolling hills and meandering river; from the bulldawgs, to our arts & music scene, and our countless charities & civic organizations, our sense of community is who we are, and we are at our finest when we put this community first. 

There’s so much to love about Athens, yet so much work to do. Times are changing and we must face our challenges head-on, while embracing exciting opportunities to guide us into a bright and shiny tomorrow. With so many resources at our fingertips—a world class university, a world-renowned creative culture, and a truly diverse community of involved citizens—we have everything we need to find creative local solutions for all our problems.

As your commissioner, I will look at all sides of every issue, seek out the most credible evidence, always ask questions, strive for collaboration, communicate openly with constituents, and consider the overall well-being of the entire community first and foremost with every decision. I’ve been a community activist for many years, speaking out on issues including neighborhood protection, affordable housing, smart growth, sustainable transportation, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation. I’ve volunteered in many cultural and community organizations and I continue to serve on several boards and committees. I’ve been a writer and editor for both local papers and worked for academic journals for nearly a decade—I know how to reach out to the community, communicate the issues, check sources, and conduct comprehensive research.

In order to grow a healthy local economy, not only must we lure new industry to provide the right jobs for our particular workforce, but we must support and grow locally owned businesses, encourage our creative culture, protect our resources, and maintain our unique identity. Like so many Athenians, I know what it’s like to work hard and struggle while getting around mostly by foot, bus, and bike. My first duty as an elected official will be to ensure a better life for the too many among us who have less than enough. I truly believe that when those at the bottom are able to get ahead, we are all lifted a little higher.

Please join me in rising up together for an even better tomorrow.


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