Another candidate has stepped forward to run for Athens-Clarke County mayor: Samuel Thomas, a lawyer and Athens native. Thomas is a political newcomer, although he comes from a political family—his grandfather ran for mayor in the 1970s, and his father ran for mayor of nearby Crawford.
Thomas grew up on the Eastside and in Oglethorpe County, left to attend law school at the University of Alabama, then returned to open a family law practice in 2012.
He said he’s concerned that Athens has too many ordinances—”I want to go through each one and ask whether it’s necessary for the city,” he said—and that some are arbitrarily enforced, citing the controversy over the city’s efforts to get local celebrity William Orten “Ort” Carlton to clean up his yard last year.
Thomas also sees too many jobs and businesses going to Oconee County, which he thinks might be the result of property taxes. He wants to incentivize local businesses and focus economic development efforts on the arts.
“I don’t see Athens being that rock and roll haven it once was,” he said. “The whole local feel of Athens is leaving right now.”
Another issue Thomas cited is marijuana. He’s in favor of reducing the penalty for possession to a ticket, as Clarkesville has done, although ACC Attorney Bill Berryman has said that’s illegal under state law.
Thomas joins four other announced candidates: ACC commissioners Kelly Girtz and Harry Sims, marketing firm owner Richie Knight and 21-year-old tea-party leader Antwon Stephens. In addition, former congressional candidate and activist Russell Edwards has been quietly lining up support, according to several sources, although Edwards told Flagpole he is not ready to make an announcement yet.
Local elections are scheduled for May 22, with a likely runoff next July.