Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (GA-10) co-hosted “Principles and Priorities,” a federal budget exercise presented by The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan think tank that advocates against federal deficit spending.
“I like the idea of practice exercises that really put you in the driver’s seat,” Girtz said. “So the idea of having citizens come in and wrestle with budgetary questions was something I was fascinated by.”
The Concord Coalition hosts similar events around the country which are often with one congressperson, said Phil Smith, national field director for The Concord Coalition. Having Girtz and Hice, who come from two different political perspectives, made the event unique.
Hice is a Tea Party Republican who represents Georgia’s 10th district, which includes Athens. While Athens mayors run in a nonpartisan election, Girtz endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams in the 2018 gubernatorial election and was elected with the support of progressives.
Girtz and Hice each said they valued the opportunity for community members to come together and discuss contentious topics in a civil manner. The elected officials walked around to different groups and interacted with participants throughout the night.
“There is a lot of things that happened here that I wish could happen in Washington,” Hice said. “Primarily, civility, for example, though we disagree on certain policies, we can still do so agreeably and in a civil kind of way.”