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After eight years, Athens-Clarke County's Manager is stepping down

Outgoing ACC County Manager Blaine Williams
Outgoing ACC County Manager Blaine Williams

Athens-Clarke County’s long-time county manager is stepping down.

ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz surprised many towards the end of a lengthy meeting on Wednesday by asking commissioners for a motion to approve an agreement governing Blaine Williams’ resignation from the post he has held since 2016.

Speaking to commissioners, Williams praised the work of lawmakers and county staff, and said his resignation was sparked by a desire to open a new chapter in his life.

"After eight years of dedicated service as the manager, I've made the heartfelt decision to resign from my position. My decision to resign is driven by a sincere desire to explore new opportunities for personal and professional growth and to be with my family," Williams told commissioners.

But some commissioners hinted that other forces might also have played a role in Williams’ shocking decision.

"We're unfortunate to live in interesting times in which agents of chaos and conspiracy theorists fall in line behind criminal fabulists, and take aim at our institutions, seek to hollow them out and destroy our democracy and make way for what is intended to be fascism," said District 2 Commissioner Melissa Link. "And unfortunately, those agents have gotten hold of forces within this community, even within this government. And I'm sorry to see that you've become the target of that and some of the rest of us have become the target of that."

Commissioner Jesse Houle had similar thoughts.

"I think there's a lot of things that this government does, and especially if this body does, that puts staff and most especially the manager's office, in a really difficult position. And I've seen you navigate that over and over again with grace and humility and integrity," they said. "And I think it's a a shame that narratives persist in the community that might indicate otherwise."

And, Commissioner Carol Myers called it a “loss” for Athens.

"I regret greatly what has led to this resignation," she said. "From before I was Commissioner through this first term as Commissioner, I have appreciated and valued, highly valued you, manager Williams, your leadership, your integrity and your contributions to the government and the community. This is a loss for the government and and for the Community. I only wish you the best, and I just feel so sad that that we're here at this tonight.

As manager, Williams administered the county government through some of its most challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and record resignations of county employees during the crisis. Under his guidance, the county received a AAA bond rating, the highest possible. He also helped launch the county's Sustainability Office, Inclusion Office, and the Geospatial Information Office.

Williams will remain in his post until July 12. Mayor Kelly Girtz is expected to announce an interim manager in the coming days, and a nationwide search for Williams' replacement will be conducted.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.