Ovita Thornton

Ovita Thornton makes a comment at a commission meeting.Commissioner Thornton, District 9

2019 – present

Represents North Athens from Newton Bridge Road to Spring Valley Road.

706-202-3173
ovita.thornton@accgov.com
Thornton’s Facebook

ACC Board of Education Member, 2002 – 2018
Board Member, Economic Justice Coalition
Executive Director, Georgia Clients Council

Graduate of Mary McLeod Bethune University.

Primary Ballots: Ovita Thornton almost always takes Democratic primary ballots.

Inferred Party: Democrat

Signature Policies

Resources for District 9: During her 2018 campaign, Commissioner Ovita Thornton advocated for resources and infrastructure for her district. For example, she has pushed for a multi-use path from Pinewoods to JJ Harris elementary, streetlights for Freeman Drive, repairing the North Ave bridge and a park on the north side among other priorities. With the exception of the park, funding for these items was included in TSPLOST 2023.

Opposition to Stormwater Fee Increases: Thornton has promoted town hall forums to discuss both the need to manage stormwater and her opinion that the stormwater fee causes hardship for some taxpayers. She opposes stormwater fee increases.

Criminal Justice Reform: Commissioner Thornton has promoted record expungement for minor offenses and bail reform efforts.

Skepticism towards Social Programs: Thornton has consistently voiced skepticism about government efforts to address poverty and homelessness. She voted against and tried to delay an eviction prevention program, repeatedly opposed the creation of a plan to reduce homelessness, voiced opposition to food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and voted against the creation of a sanctioned homeless encampment. While she sometimes ends up voting yes on these programs anyway, her doubt in the sincerity and effectiveness of government action is consistent.

Controversy

The Gerrymandering of Athens: Thornton encouraged the Republican-controlled state legislature to gerrymander Athens’ commission districts in 2022 when she abstained from supporting a Board of Elections-endorsed redistricting map. She was informed several times about the consequences of this decision, including once just before the vote by Manager Blaine Williams. The Republican plan to gerrymander Athens removed three commissioners from office by fiat and put over half of Athens voters in a different district months before the May 2022 local election. To date, she has not spoken out against the gerrymandering.

The ACC Democratic party censured Thornton over this incident, saying that she enabled Republicans to undermine democracy locally.

Other Issues

Manipulation of the FY 2024 Budget Vote: On June 6, 2023, Thornton inappropriately abstained on a vote to approve the FY 2024 budget, seemingly with the intent to manipulate the outcome. Weaponizing an abstention in this manner violates best practice for local governments in Georgia according to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia’s parliamentary procedure manual and is most likely unprecedented in ACC government history.

Voting Record

Fund the Athens Homeless Coalition / Salvation Army: YES
Raise the Stormwater Fee: NO
Approve the Leisure Services Master Plan: NO
Regulate Short-Term Rentals: YES
Block Townhomes in Green Acres: serving as mayor pro tem
Approve Low-Barrier Homeless Shelter: serving as mayor pro tem
Overturn Restrictions on Public Comment: YES
Fund Athens Achieves: NO
Approve FY 2025 Budget: YES

(More information about 2024 votes.)

Delay Barber Street Improvements: YES
Approve Mall Redevelopment: YES
Restart the Eviction Prevention Program: NO
Recognize the Firefighter’s Union: YES
Approve the FY 2024 Budget: Abstain (!), YES
Ban Indoor Vaping: YES
Start Delinquency Prevention Initiative: YES
Place Public Safety Monitor in Auditor’s Office: YES
Accept Affordable Housing Investment Strategy: YES
Accept Plan to Reduce and Prevent Homelessness: YES
Reject Pet Registration: YES
Close First Step Encampment and Extend Hotel Voucher Program: NO

(More information about 2023 votes.)

Approve TSPLOST 2023 Project List: YES
Appoint Public Safety Oversight Board: abstain
Approve American Rescue Plan Framework: NO
Raise Commissioner Salaries: NO
Adopt Inclusionary Zoning Policy: YES
Adopt Complete Streets Policy: YES
Approve FY 2023 Budget: YES
Celebrate Pride Month and Juneteenth: NO
Approve 1010 Oglethorpe Avenue: NO
Begin Prince Avenue Road Diet Pilot: YES
Decriminalize Cannabis: NO
Approve the 100% Clean Energy Plan: YES
Create Homelessness Plan: NO
Authorize Eminent Domain for Firefly Trail: NO
Change Planning Department Work Plan: NO
Recognize Firefighters’ Union: NO
Allow Accessory Dwelling Units: NO
Keep Three Lanes on Prince Avenue: absent

(More information about 2022 votes.)

Approve Apartments Near Airport: NO
Give Public Land for a New Parking Deck: NO
Approve Apartments off Lexington Road: NO
Approve Taser Contract: YES
Approve Linnentown Resolution: YES
Extend the Firefly Trail on original route: NO
Fund Athens Eats Together: YES
Delay Eviction Prevention Program: YES
Approve FY 2022 Budget: NO
Approve Official Homeless Camp: NO
Establish Local Anti-Discrimination Protections: YES
Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine for ACC Gov Employees: YES
Install Downtown Public Restroom: NO
Fund Non-Police Crisis Response Team: YES
Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day: YES
Approve AFDC to Run Eviction Prevention Program: YES
Establish a Law Enforcement Oversight Board: absent
Establish a Human Relations Commission: absent
Accept JAG Grant: YES
Approve New Commission Districts: abstain

(More information about 2021 votes.)

Accept Agreement with the Classic Center: YES
Support the Pre-Arrest Diversion Program: YES
Start a Community Energy Fund: YES
Declare State of Emergency, Banning Public Gatherings: NO
Order Athenians to Shelter in Place: YES
Urge Leniency for Rent and Mortgage Payments: YES
Refuse to Pay Attorney Bryan Sells: NO
Move Confederate Monument, Close College Square: YES
Establish Goal of Reducing Police Funding: NO
Adopt the FY 2021 Budget: YES
Make Masks Mandatory: YES
Resolve that Black lives matter: YES
Delay BLM resolution: NO
Start “parklet” pilot program: YES
Ban rentable scooters: YES
Establish West Downtown Historic District: NO
(More information about 2020 votes)

Reconsider Designating SPLOST Projects: YES
Accept $250,000 Settlement with Taylor Saulters: YES
FY2020 Goals and Objectives: YES
Designate SPLOST Projects: NO on the judicial center, YES on the rest
Expand ACCPD Vehicle Program: YES
Adopt the 100% Athens Resolution: YES
End cash bail for local ordinance violations: YES
Delay Bike Lanes on Hancock Ave: YES
Remove Mention of Classic Center Arena from SPLOST 2020: NO
Approve Final SPLOST 2020 List: YES
Pass Along State Legislative Requests: YES
Reorganize Animal Control: YES
Approve the Neighborhood Leaders program: YES
(More information about 2019 votes)

Election Results

Thornton ran for re-election unopposed in 2022.

Ovita Thornton62.6%
Tommy Valentine – 36.9%