I grew up in Norfolk, Va., with my mother, Joanne Kirsch Claridge, now of College Station, Texas, my father, Commander Darryl S. Girtz (U.S. Navy, retired), who still lives in Norfolk, and my younger siblings, Britta and Chris.
My dad worked his way from a position as an enlisted electronics technician to a commission as a limited duty officer, while my mother moved through community college classes to a degree in medical records at Norfolk State University that she completed the year after I graduated from high school. Their efforts demonstrated the importance of diligence and hard work, and the need to be mindful of how fortunate we are.
Through high school and college, and before beginning my teaching career, I worked a variety of jobs – newspaper delivery, record and bookstore retail, pizza delivery, table serving, room service and carpentry. Through each of these experiences, I met great co-workers and customers who reinforced the importance of paying attention to the experience of others, and the wisdom they have to provide.
While working, I attended Tidewater Community College, then Old Dominion University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. My interest at the time was on child welfare policy. With fellow students and friends, I was a founding member of In Support of Children, a campus organization dedicated to preventing violence against children that is still active in the Hampton Roads area.
Following a year of student teaching at Cedar Shoals High School, I began my career in education at W.R. Coile Middle School, where I taught language arts and Georgia studies for five years, as well as serving as the hospital/homebound teacher for students that were on longterm disability. Visiting these students and their families in their homes week-after-week revealed how many needs and problems in Athens can be off radar of many residents here. This was critical in my decision to enter politics.
When Classic City High School opened in 2003 to support students needing a small, personalized setting, I was among the inaugural teachers on staff. This was a great opportunity to help struggling students achieve diplomas and be more successful post-high school. After teaching American government and economics there for seven years, I became principal, a position I held for four years, continuing to make outreach to students and families a priority. My Friday afternoons often involved visits to neighborhoods throughout Athens to encourage students that had been frequently absent to return to class.
Following that role, I moved to the position of regional director for Student Services at Foothills Education Charter High School, the regional public evening high school, a place for even more students to succeed. In this role, I provided training and support to counselors, social workers, mentors, and related staff at ten sites in Athens and the surrounding area, supporting nearly 1500 students. My position there included work with high school students in three state prisons, where students have an opportunity to earn diplomas and turn their lives around.
In 2006, after years of interest in national and local politics, I ran for, and was elected to, the District 9 County Commission seat, then was rewarded by you to my first term as Mayor, where supporting public health and safety, making Athens a more aesthetically and economically attractive place, and providing an opportunity for even greater support of families have been my priorities. The Issues page of this website highlights the critical work I have done in these elected positions.
In my free time, I enjoy gardening, carpentry, cooking, reading, walking and listening to podcasts and music (sometimes with a trash picker in hand), and the warmth, kindness, and camaraderie found living in Athens. I am beyond lucky to have the company of my wife Andrea Griffith Girtz, and our son Noah, and the comfort of our home on Pulaski Street. My key desire is that the blessings of our lives are extended to every family in Athens.