Jared Bailey adjusts to new role as commissioner

Jared Bailey has a lot on his plate, which is why he starts every morning around 6 a.m. with a double cappuccino to start sifting through the 50 to 100 emails he might receive on any given day.


These emails could be of political, musical, civic or philanthropic nature—all different areas that Bailey is involved in.


Its 6:15 a.m. Tuesday morning and Bailey reads, “a very long email,” from the Director of the Athens Clarke-County Economic Development Foundation.


Next, he reads an email from the Director of the Chamber of Commerce that explains some errors in an editorial that was published in the Athens Banner Herald.


Needing a break from email, Bailey reads the paper and checks his to-do list and reflects on the challenges ahead for the day.


Time for another double cappuccino, he thinks to himself.


By the time 8 a.m. rolls around, Bailey can start returning phone calls.


Each phone call could be relating to his full time job, directing Athfest, his volunteer work with various organizations in the city, or his new part-time job, representing District 5 of Athens-Clarke County as the newly-elected commissioner.


Bailey was elected District 5 Commissioner after a run-off against Dave Hudgins in November.


Although his new role is labeled a “part-time job,” Bailey explained that the responsibilities equal those of a full-time job.


“It’s pretty tough,” Bailey said. “Especially when you are still learning.”


Bailey, who had observed many of the commission meetings as a citizen in the past, said it is much more complicated than it looks.


“It seems easy, obvious from one side of the rail,” he said. “Behind the rail, it is a different story.”


Since his swearing in ceremony on Jan. 4, Bailey said, he has thrown himself into learning the job, which has been more time consuming than he anticipated.


“In the beginning,” he said, “It was almost overwhelming.”


Learning how to be a commissioner involves understanding how the system works, what each department does, parliamentary procedure and more.


Although Bailey had attended a state-required, three-day training program and another daylong training session for Athens-Clarke County, he also sought help from seasoned professionals.


“He has been spending a lot of time since getting elected just listening and asking questions,” District 4 Commissioner Alice Kinman said.


One of the mentors Bailey relies on for advice is Planning Commission Chair Lucy Rowland, who served as Bailey’s campaign manager during the election.


“He is a very quick study,” Rowland said. “He asks for advice, which is unusual, because one of the things you will find in politicians is that they are egomaniacs—he is not an egomaniac.”


Rowland, who had served as a campaign operative for 30 years, had actually retired from the work but came out of retirement to help Bailey with his campaign.


“I never work for a candidate that I don’t believe in,” Rowland said.


Bailey demonstrated a number of qualities that led Rowland to believe he would be a strong political candidate.


“He is one of the smartest people I know,” she said. “He is very analytical.”


Strong work ethic was another quality that Rowland saw in Bailey.


“I have never seen anybody work harder than he does,” she said. “He works day and night.”


This particular trait was especially crucial during his first few weeks on the job.


Not only did Bailey have to learn a complicated political system very quickly, the new commissioner was jolted into official duties only days after his swearing-in ceremony with the snowstorm in early January.


With barely a week on the job, Bailey was receiving angry phone calls from citizens who needed assistance after the storm.


“It hit him like a bag of rocks,” Rowland said. “He was getting calls from people who weren’t even in his district.”


After the initial shocks of the snowstorm passed, Bailey could start addressing the issues he discussed during his campaign:  empowered neighborhoods, effective economic development, sustainable land use and transportation, environmental stewardship, public safety and fiscal responsibility.


Instead of addressing each of these issues individually, Bailey relies on these concerns when making decisions of every variety as commissioner of District 5.


“The issues that I put on my platform,” Bailey said, “are what guide my actions and my thoughts.”


However, sometimes these issues conflict with each other in a particular scenario and Bailey must find a balance.


When he worked with a neighborhood that was opposed to building a medical center in District 5, Bailey was faced with clashing concerns of “good land use” and “empowering the neighborhood.”


“It was a good use of land, but at the same time the neighborhood had rights,” he said, “so I had to work with both of them and iron out the differences.”


In the end, the commission approved the zoning request with conditions that represented the neighborhood’s concerns.


Bailey considers these issues as he takes on current projects such as the Classic Center expansion proposal as a result of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote.


Now 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Bailey sits on the stage of a packed City Hall with the Mayor and Commission to discuss the various design options of the Classic Center expansion during an Athens-Clarke Commission work session.


Members of the local business community push a design which will close a portion of East Hancock Ave and petition not to delay the project any longer.


Bailey listens to the arguments before him, while also considering the other sides to the debate.


“There are people who don’t think the Classic Center needs to expand at all,” Bailey said.


Others think that the Classic Center staff is pushing to have it done in a time frame that is too short to make a quality plan, he added.


The meeting finally wraps up at 9:30 p.m. allowing Bailey to be home by 10 p.m., but Bailey is not able to simply turn his brain off with the flip of a switch.


“I ran the events of the meeting through my head a thousand times,” Bailey said. “I finally fell asleep about 1 a.m.”


It’s 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and Bailey is up again, with a double cappuccino, ready for another busy day.


“It is a little more work than I thought it would be, but I am glad I did it,” he said.  “Although I am only one vote in 10, I think I have a positive effect.”




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