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February 2022

Will Athenian Pride and Demand-for-Action Make the Classic City a Safer, Cleaner and more Prosperous Hometown?

Will Athens Citizens’ Pride and Demand-for-Action Make the Classic City a Safer, Cleaner and more Prosperous Hometown?

The Classic City.  A Google search shows that nickname is unique to one place: Athens, Georgia.

In 1805 when the city was named after Athens, Greece, the ancient center of classical learning, the “Classic City” nickname took hold and has stuck ever since.

But the name Classic City is almost too good to be true, for it implies a kind of model American city.  And it takes great effort to stay perched on such a high and conspicuous pedestal.

And yet generations of Athenians have stepped up to fund a safe and clean city where their kids could attend good schools, find jobs, start businesses, and enjoy an enriched community life.


The Design of a Classic City Hall

In 1905, Athenians approved the building of City Hall, and the design they chose reflected the kind of government they sought.

  • To symbolize stability and justice, they chose a tall and majestic green copper dome.
  • Being frugal  about funding excess offices and bureaucracy, they kept the building below the dome relatively small, even building the city jail next door.
  • Calling for open and transparent  government, they included a large clock with four faces — one facing each compass point: north, east, south, and west.
  • Finally, citizen access was guaranteed by building elegant staircases on three sides of the building to welcome citizens in.

Imagine: only 12,000 people lived in Athens at the time.  It was both an expensive investment and bold vision of what their city could be.  But the building of our iconic City Hall points to an enduring quality of Athenians over time: they take pride  in ensuring the Classic City lives up to its name.

Yet pride by itself is not enough. Smart leadership is also required to transform that pride into actual results.  Fortunately, civic leadership is also an Athens tradition.

Music entrepreneurs and downtown business leaders stepped up in the 1970s to create the city’s music scene.  Wise leadership also enabled UGA’s rise as a world-class university, now ranked the 16th best public university in America.


Athens City’s Serious Underlying Problems

On the surface, life in the Classic City today is upbeat.  A recent downtown parade cheered our hometown NCAA football champions, the UGA Bulldogs.  Sales are brisk for souvenir hats and sweat shirts.

But scanning the broader community, things have changed for the worse in the past few years.  Sure, the city looks the same, but Covid has dramatically reduced our quality of life.  Inflation is now seriously squeezing the buying power of dollars to buy groceries, fill our cars with gas, and pay for healthcare.

Plus there are deeper underlying problems — often glossed over by local news media — that adversely impact life in our city:

  • Athens faces a serious crime problem — indeed the policies of the mayor and commissioners and District Attorney are actually frustrating police efforts to fight crime.
  • Public schools are delivering a lower quality of education than our neighboring counties and the Athens of the past.
  • Homeless men and panhandlers are an everyday sight downtown and throughout Athens.
  • High tax rates are forcing some businesses to relocate to neighboring counties like Oconee — and taking precious jobs with them.
  • Covid restrictions are crushing small business and have greatly reduced access to libraries, indoor gyms and other community facilities for our youth.

A Business Association Sounds the Alarm;
Demands Action & Changes in City Leadership

Fortunately, as in Athens generations past, concerned business leaders are stepping up to shine light on problems and drive solutions.

This is the mission of Athens Classic Inc. (ACI), a two-year-old association of many concerned citizens, homemakers, retirees, and business owners — including restaurant owners, realtors, and retail shop owners.  These leaders came together because they are deeply alarmed that Athens Mayor and Commissioners are not adequately addressing the key city issues just mentioned.  Indeed, ACI holds regularly in-person meetings with the mayor.

In this Watch Dawgs story, we interview the co-founder and the President of ACI, Steve Middlebrooks.

Steve is the CEO of two Athens car dealerships on Atlanta Highway — Heyward Allen Toyota and Heyward Allen Cadillac Buick GMC, employing over 200 people.

Steve’s also an avid Bulldogs fan.  I saw a big “G” football helmet behind his desk and countless plaques, photos and UGA memorabilia lining the walls of his office.  Through the glass door, I even spied a genuine bulldog rambling around his assistant’s office.

In this interview, you’ll learn Steve’s and ACI’s deeply informed and researched ideas for reforming Athens-Clarke government so it adopts more “common sense” policies to address serious city problems that cannot be denied exist.

And as you’ll read, Steve and his team are not relying on local ideas alone, but are actively seeking out experts in other cities — often in other college football towns such as Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State) and Austin, Texas (University of Texas) — to discover what solutions are working elsewhere that can be applied here in Athens.


The Biggest Concern: Public Safety

Steve, let’s cut to the chase.  What do you consider the biggest issue of concern to Athens citizens?

Steve Middlebrooks:  Dan, I have a strong concern over the slipping reputation of Athens, Georgia.  I’ve been here 50 years and I’m deeply concerned with public safety in particular.

I have been in constant contact with the local police department and gotten all their latest crime stats as it relates to gangs, university students, homeless, and the number of calls into the police department that have grown exponentially, yet our police force has diminished in size.  We are actually over 40 police officers below their desired level.

And crime in Athens continues to escalate.  One of the stats that hit home with the Athens Classic Inc. group I spoke to recently was: the Georgia Tech campus is safer than the UGA campus!  Really!

Across all the colleges and universities in Georgia, there are 17 colleges ahead of us in safety.  And when I mention that to people, they say, “There’s no way Georgia Tech and downtown Atlanta can be safer than Athens, GA.”

I’ve had dialogues with Marty and Brian Kemp.  Brian grew up in my neighborhood.  A couple months ago we were talking about trafficking and that’s one of the main things Marty focuses on — the protection of young girls.

Sex trafficking

Now the average age of a girl being trafficked is 14 years old.  There are 3,700 gang members in Athens, GA.  Yes, that’s a shocking number, but it comes straight from the Chief of Police.  Now a lot of these gang members come from Gwinnett.  There are young girls being picked up in Athens, Georgia.  Some you hear about; some you don’t hear about.

So in summary, the crime is tarnishing our reputation.


UGA Parents Score a Big Public Safety Win

There’s no denying public safety is an issue citizens need stay on top of.  How quickly we forget the riots of 2020.  Cities like Atlanta and New York City experienced major violence, including smashed windows and looting of retail stores.  One neighborhood in Minneapolis was burned to the ground.  What can be done?

Well, one of the things we’ve done is hook up with the parent’s group of the University of Georgia.  The group is called Georgia Parents Safe D Athens.

Now my financial advisor said, “You probably want to meet Cindy Furman.  She is part of a parent’s group at the University of Georgia and she’s essentially doing the same thing as you’re doing with Athens Classic Inc.  So we got together and on December the 18th we met with the Mayor, City Manager, Chief Spruill, and Chief Sikes of the University of Georgia.

These two ladies came over and we met for 2 and a half hours in City Hall.  And one of the ladies just happens to have been with the CIA for over 30 years.  So, does she know a bit about what’s going on?  Yes, she knows.

What she explained was the amount of research they did.  They visited Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University.  They hooked up with Southern Cal in Los Angeles, Austin, Texas (University of Texas) and parents groups from many other universities.

And they compared notes to say: “What’s working here and what might we do at the University of Georgia?”

I traveled to Washington, DC to meet with our national automobile organization, I sat with an auto dealer from Columbus, Ohio; an Ohio State grad, who lives in downtown Columbus.

We struck up a conversation and he explained how Ohio State’s parents group made a proposal with a billboard company — and this was two years ago when Ohio State had just won the national football championship.  The billboard concept was something like this:

Ohio state billboard

So, the parents went to the university president to meet with him.  Ended up, the University agreed to spend $22.6 million to combat crime.  Now this was an innovative program that included 75 intervention officers — not police officers per se.  The officers are similar to police, but they are armed with a taser, not a gun.  The point being: with their presence on campus and on the periphery of the campus — the downtown area — crime went down.

Now this same group was involved in some recent news you may have heard about: the University of Georgia just awarded $8.2 million for improved safety.  And this group was instrumental in making that happen.

Has the university put this initiative in place yet?

It is in process as I understand.

Last year, Athens-Clarke County saw a crime rate that was higher than 74% of the state’s cities and towns of all sizes, according to data gathered by the FBI.  And this crime involved UGA students — as many as 117 victims!

The stats are troubling.  For instance, for the year 2020 there were 102 university students assaulted.  However, through July 2021 there were 112.  So those numbers are substantially up.

They are concerned about their children over there.  I’m concerned about my granddaughter as well.  Both of the ladies who started this movement have senior girls in the University of Georgia who have both been assaulted.  So it hits home when the victim is one of your own.

Add it all up, the crime in Athens is really impacting and needs to be addressed.


How Does Athens Compare to Other College Towns
in Violent Crime Control?

Steve, to reinforce your concern about Athens-Clarke County’s high level of crime, I did some research on-line to create a series of data charts (posted below).  The charts show 2016 Violent Crime Statistics from the FBI’s data (NOTE: 2016 is the latest complete set of Metropolitan stats available).  So you can read how Athens compared with other College Towns, or cities of similar population.


Addressing the Homeless / Panhandler Crisis &
Incoming Homeless from Other Cities

Let’s switch to another key concern, the homeless.  When I bring my laptop to work at the UGA library, I sometimes take a stroll through the Arches.  And reliably there are two or three panhandlers downtown begging for money.

I’ve spoken to some business owners downtown.  Whether they own a restaurant, a liquor story, or clothing store, they are deepingly concerned and it adversely affecting business. 

Now on the subject of the homeless and panhandlers, I have to pause to make sure I’m specific in saying that we want to be part of the solution for homeless people.

And with some of the groups in town, you hesitate to bring this subject up because people accuse you of not being empathetic or sympathetic to the homeless.

The Built for Zero (homeless) program is working in over 90 communities throughout the country.  The demand for this program has been staggering.

Homeless with sign

We are currently in discussion with Greenville, South Carolina who used the template of Built for Zero to get results.

We have spoken with the head of the program in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they have also adopted the same approach.  My son is the pastor of a congregation on Lookout Mountain there and I’m going to pay him a visit next weekend.  They’ve also done a good job of helping the homeless.

In the case of Greenville, South Carolina, I recently went to lunch with Doc Eldridge, the former mayor and former President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce who told me about his visit to Greenville two weeks ago.

He met with a police officer in South Carolina and said, “Beautiful city, and I don’t see any homeless.  How do ya’ll handle that?”

And the policeman said, “It’s real simple.  We first of all take a compassionate approach to the homeless and have dialog with them so we can figure out the direction we need to go:

  1. Family breakups are a major cause of homeless.  We ask them if they have family anywhere and what’s their relationship with family.  Then we explore if we can get them the resources to get back to their family.
  2. Mentally Ill — If it’s a case of mental illness, we direct them to the local area in the city that handles that issue; and
  3. The Longer-Term Homeless people we direct to various homeless shelters.“

But within all this, there’s a respected registry called HMIS that tracks where homeless are and where they go, with the intent to help them.

In our community, based on my talks with the mayor, chief of police, the Sparrow’s Nest, Jamie Scott and some others, I’m told there are between 190 to 225 homeless in our community, of which over 80% are non-residents of Athens.

Recently, our Mayor and Commissioners approved funding of a $2.2M encampment.  I am concerned that it will make Athens a magnet for the homeless.  Others have actually brought in people in vans and dropped them off.  This is first-hand knowledge, not hear say.


Can Athens Homeless Shelters Keep Up?

How do you feel the local homeless shelters are holding up?

I applaud their efforts: they are doing the best they can.  Now we certainly want to take care of our own.  But it’s tough for Athens and its shelters to assume more and more responsibility and take care of many others in the contiguous counties as well as Atlanta.  Actually, Atlanta and Gwinnett are possibly two of the larger sources of homeless coming into Athens.

Of course, we are big supporters of Sparrow’s Nest, the Salvation Army, Mercy Health Center etc.  And so, I can’t emphasize enough: we want to be part of the solution.

I encourage you to talk to Jamie Scott, at the Sparrow’s Nest.  He’s a Director there and a real success story.

One good thing about the Sparrow’s Nest is they reach out to the homeless with a hand up rather than a hand out.  They are there to help people gain a skill.  Teach you.  Train you, and so forth.

Their location is right behind Dunkin’ Donuts on Prince Avenue, and they are very well organized.  They are not only hooked up to the HMIS homeless database, they also have their own database and they hire 3 interns from UGA.  I’ve met with them and they walked me through their program and I was very impressed.

Sparrows nest thanksgiving


Is Homeless & Panhandler Crime Scaring
Students Away from UGA?

What action is our local government taking on this issue?

Recently, the mayor and commission awarded a $2.2M contract to a local non-profit to manage the proposed homeless encampment.

What is the recent history regarding homeless encounters with the law?  Here’s data provided by the Athens Police Department comparing May through September 2018-2021.  (NOTE: Due to a computer data breach, comparable data was only available for these specific dates.)

2018 — 248 calls to police
2019 — 516 calls
2020 — 733 calls
2021 — 1,004 calls — annualized @ 3,120 calls.

Two quick instances, one that hits home.  I’ve got a grand daughter who is a sophomore at the University of Georgia.  End of the semester she’ll be transferring to Auburn.  Two reasons.  The primary reason, candidly, is she wants to become a nurse and they have a good nursing program.

And the underlying reason is that she has been to Auburn about many times.  She calls me Beba, and she says, “Beba, I honestly have not seen the first homeless person at Auburn.  And I’m scared to go on-campus at night here at UGA.”

We hear that complaint over and over again.  And so goes the University, so goes Athens.  But if we’re in denial, we’re going to look up shortly and notice we’re in a sad state of affairs.

I made this comment to our Athens Classic group recently, “If you’re a football fan, you know there are 14 colleges and universities in the Southeastern Conference.  And the university in Oxford, Mississippi, Ole Miss, is the safest.  Auburn and Alabama University are close.  In fact, Georgia Tech, who is not even in the SEC, is safer than the University of Georgia.”

And when I tell people that, it blows their mind.

A second example comes from my good friend.  He spoke with a family at this year’s next-to-last football game.  And their son, who is a top golfer in the entire country, was here with his family to consider coming to the University.

The family visited downtown, saw all the homeless and panhandlers there.  They weren’t accosted, but they were confronted.  And the mother told her son, “You’re not going to the University of Georgia.”


High Taxes are Causing Businesses to Leave
for Oconee & Other Counties

How are Athens’ high taxes affecting local businesses?

Well, high taxes are a chief concern of business people because Athens-Clarke County is small in area and the University has a large land presence yet doesn’t pay taxes.  I get all kinds of stats on the taxes I’m paying versus my automobile competitors in other cities in Georgia.  And it’s much higher than the majority.

Tax burden on Athens citizens

We are currently doubling the size of our Toyota service department right now, and we’ve started construction.  At our other location where we sell Buick, GMC and Cadillac, we desire to build on the current location, but must have our options open to Oconee County.

In June of last year, I talked to Charlie Upchurch of Upchurch Realty, friends for a long time, and it was he and I who actually got Athens Classic Inc. going.

I said to Charlie: “We need to have a meeting with the Mayor.”  So our first meeting with the Mayor — with 20 business men and women attending — was about taxes.

And we’ve met almost monthly ever since then discussing different topics.  We’ve talked about the water supply of Athens-Clarke County and what they are doing.  A lot of people don’t know that ACC just bought a quarry which will provide us enough water through 2060.  I really applaud them on that investment.

Then we talked about the homeless.  Each meeting we have with the mayor is on a different topic.

Anyway, in one dialog with the mayor we expressed our concern that there’s very little budgeted for economic development, yet millions are being spent for homeless encampments, and these things.

And so I sit here thinking, “Am I selfish to think that we’re the tax base?  We’re the people who live here, our children live here, yet all the focus is going to support primarily transient people?”


Economic Development & the 1% Sales Tax Surcharge

What would you like to see in terms of economic development?

Well, they are doing some economic development.  For example there’s a plan to refurbish the mall and turn it into a mixed use facility with apartments, restaurants, and offices.

The city is not funding it, but there will most likely be a bond to make it attractive for an independent developer to build.  Have you heard of the Avalon in Alpharetta?  It may be a similar concept.

So a lot of positives from that standpoint.  However, we would like to do the best we can to keep businesses in the community, rather than going across the river to Oconee County, which is what so many are doing.

Personally, I question the wisdom of the 1% sales tax surcharge.  Supporters think it’s “free money” because you’re capturing revenue from visitors coming in to watch football games, etc.

Yes, everyone coming in pays a 1% sales tax, but to your point, the fans coming to watch ball games are coming how many times a year?  Two or three games perhaps?  But Athens citizens are paying that extra 1% every time they buy something at a local store.

That hurts the lower income people to whom the 1% really matters.  Citizens shopping at Five Points or downtown Athens are hit harder than those who shop at Walmart or Lowe’s in Oconee County.

You’re right.  Some people think of it and others don’t.  And I’ve heard people say, I’ll just go over to Oconee County and buy whatever.


Athens Students Suffer from Covid School Lockdowns:
A Major Student Exodus to Private Schools

What about education?  What’s your assessment of Athens public schools?

Dan, our organization is basically built on three pillars.  Public safety, public education, and public health.  And when we started Athens Classic Inc., little did we know about the “defund the police” movement and how it escalated the last year and a half.

So we pretty much put all our time and resources to public safety.  As a result, public education and health kind of sat in the background.  And it shouldn’t be that way.

My two boys are products of public education in Clarke County.  And they got a great education.  They went on to the University of Georgia.  Today, one’s a business partner of mine.  The other is a pastor.  So I have no qualms about the education they got whatsoever.

However, they graduated in the 1990s, and things have changed.

Boy in gray sweatshirt

One issue deeply concerns me: we were the only county — of all the counties that surround us — that closed our school system down during Covid.

All the other counties continued to operate.  Their schools and kids would physically go to school — every county continued school.  But Athens schools went virtual.  Why?

Well, I can talk to Chief Spruill, I can talk to Jamie Scott, and Jim Munier of Bigger Vision.  All of these references know that when you rely on virtual education like that, most of these children are distracted.  First of all, many of them do not have access to a computer at home.  And of those who do have a computer, many don’t have a good WiFi connection.

On top of that, all the community centers were shut down — many still are.  So kids had no place to go.  So what’s the likelihood of them spending their time to get educated versus getting into trouble?

Girl with pony tail

I’m concerned.  This is the community I live in.  I want kids to have the best education.  So that’s concerning.  Very concerning.

I have two businesses in Athens-Clarke County.  And going back to Covid, when they shut the schools down it was my understanding that more than a few families pulled their children out from Barrow School and left to attend private schools: Westminster Christian, Prince Avenue School in Bogart and Athens Academy in Oconee.

Now you and I can just imagine.  Of those 20-40 students, the means which their families had to afford private school, and those students would often be the high-achievers you’d really want to stay in our public schools.


The Sudden Retirement of the Athens Police Chief

You mentioned Chief Spruill.  And I note that the Chief recently announced his retirement after spending only three years here in Athens.

Yes, I frankly hate to see Chief Spruill go.  Some of the Commissioners did not make it easy on him at all.

Chief spruill

And whereas the term “defund the police” has died out across the country, it has not gone away with the moves of some of our commissioners up and including the forming of a civilian Police Advisory Task Force.

This all goes back to 2019 when the Mayor appointed 10 people to be on that task force.  And the ten people who are on there — well, I don’t want to characterize them, but there were no business people, no clergy, no former law enforcement.

My concern was that a couple of these commissioners have been all over the Chief.  They’ve been grilling him.  They had public forums that I attended, and I can tell, I could not have taken the verbal attacks he took.

I applaud Chief Spruill for being open and accessible.

Our police support us!  We support our police.  I am always concerned about any kind of situation where a law enforcement person oversteps their bounds.  But I would say the percentage of that is so minute compared to the number of crimes being committed where a habitual offender is arrested and released without bond or very little bond.


A Naval Analogy for Setting City Priorities

When I was stationed at the U.S. Navy Base in Sasebo City, Japan, I worked for a lieutenant commander from the Seabees who was in charge of all the Navy base’s facilities — a special kind of "city".  And one time he taught me how he set his priorities:
  1. Utilities — If there’s no electricity, nothing gets done.  So your first priority is to ensure your utilities are in top shape;
  2. Your Mission as a naval base is to service Navy ships coming and going.  So you need to ensure your port facilities can safely dock ships, supply them power, water, repair shops, provisions, etc.;
  3. Maintenance of the Physical Plant — Tremendous investments have already been made in buildings and roads.  But it rains a lot in Japan, so if you’re not careful, a leaky roof can destroy a perfectly good building; and,
  4. Customer Priorities — You definitely need to address your customer’s special requests.  They are important, so long as you manage your first three priorities.

Steve Middlebrooks: Dan, it applies.  It applies to the way I run my business and it applies to the running of our city.

To be perfectly honest, the state of our city today RE: public safety and public education is not where we’d like to be.  I’m not proud of it, but I want to be proud of it.  After all, this is Athens, the Classic City.

Now I don’t want people in City Hall who always think like I do.  But I do want people who are at least centric — and by that I mean people who think somewhere in the middle, maybe edging on the left side, or edging on the right side — somewhere in the middle.

We need to more carefully look at how money is being spent in our community.


Athens Citizens Need to Ask Questions & Get Involved;
Honestly Speak Out to Protect our Classic City

Thanks, Steve.  You covered a lot of fertile ground in this interview and I applaud you and Athens Classic Inc. for seizing the day and getting out there to educate citizens about the need for serious change in the way Athens-Clarke County is being governed.

When I talk to the business leaders in town, Dan, some who come to mind are great friends and super people.  And they say, I’ll contribute to what you’re doing, but don’t use my name and don’t mention my business because I’ve got customers I serve that think a certain way.  And I say to them:

So, do I.  So, do I.  I don’t want to be out front.  That’s not my desire.  But I don’t think I can be in a shell and accomplish what we need to accomplish to bring our city back to — well, I’ll use the term normalcy.”

However, if there’s anything in the community that adversely affects those children growing up, you want to fix that problem so they get the education they deserve.

At our most recent meeting I asked for a show of hands.  I asked them three questions:

  • How many of you have heard about Built for Zero?;
  • How many of you are aware of the crime statistics in Athens, Georgia?; and
  • How many are aware there are 3,700 gang members in Athens-Clarke County?  (and that number comes straight from the Chief of Police.)
Gang in shadows

And very few raised their hands.  And I said, “Look, neither was I aware of these things until I got involved.”  It was not until May of 2019 when I started digging into what’s going on.  And the more I dug, the more upset I got — and that prompted me to keep on digging.

Now it’s not that we’re doing everything wrong.  Please don’t take it that way.  But to your point.  You take that Navy ship that you’re familiar with.  If its course is off only one degree, it doesn’t get to its destination.




Restoring the Classic City


“Republics abound in young civilians, who believe the laws make the city, and that grave changes in policy, modes of living, and employments of the population can be made.

Or that commerce, education, and religion, may be simply voted in or out.  And that any measure — though it were absurd — may be imposed on a people, if only you can get sufficient voices to make it a law.

But the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the twisting; that the State must follow, and not lead the character and progress of the citizen.

Fortunately, the strongest usurper is quickly gotten rid of.  Those who truly build, build on Ideas and build for eternity.

The form of government that prevails mirrors the cultivation that exists in the citizens.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Politics from Essays: Second Series (1844)

Copyright 2022 The Watch Dawgs

 
Steve Middlebrooks

Steve Middlebrooks

Steve Middlebrooks is the leader and co-founder of Athens Classic Inc., a two-year-old association of concerned citizens, homemakers, retirees, and business owners actively pushing to make Athens a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous city.

He is the owner and Chief Executive Officer of the Heyward Allen Toyota and Heyward Allen Cadillac Buick GMC auto dealerships in Athens.  Taking a sales job at Heyward Allen in 1973 straight out of his last semester at UGA’s Terry College, Steve worked his way up under the founder, Heyward Allen Sr., and later in partnership with his son, Buddy Allen.  Then in 2017, Steve and his own son took full ownership of the company.

Steve also serves on numerous local board of directors, is active in his church, and proudly supports many local non-profitable organizations.

In the community, he’s active in UGA Athletic organizations, the Young Harris Methodist Church, the Clarke County Schools Foundation for Excellence, and the Athens Country Club.

Dan Baker

Dan Baker

Dan Baker is editor of The Watch Dawgs and has been an independent market analyst/journalist in the telecom industry for 25 years.

He operates his own “boutique” research firm, Technology Research Institute, and edits his Black Swan Telecom Journal.  His current areas of telecom specialty include analytics/AI systems, fraud and identity theft, consumer protection from phone scams/robocalling, and connectivity/IoT solutions in Asia Pacific.

Dan has lived in Athens since 2016 and originally hails from Massachusetts where he learned his trade.  He also served for 9 years in the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet.  With a Bachelor Liberal Arts degree from Notre Dame, he’s not quite sure who to cheer for when the Fightin‘ Irish come to Dooley Field.