Most of us have a 'home away from home,' or a second place we consider home in our hearts and minds. Mine is Athens, Georgia. Like Athens, Greece, its namesake. The Classic City has a storied history, as well as many prominent leaders, academics and athletes living there today. But what makes most any town really unique and special are its people, and this column is about a small handful of Athens' finest.
Mayor Nancy Denson has been serving the community and county for nearing four decades. With several of those as Tax Commissioner, Mayor Denson can honorably state that she never forced a single individual or family out of their home due to a forced tax sale. Mayor Denson is term limited from running again, much to the chagrin of many in the city, but her legacy will long live on. Both northeast Georgia/Athens area food banks were begun from her garage. And her family continues in public service, with one daughter the longtime City Manager of Tybee Island and another a well-regarded State Legislator as well as candidate for Mayor of the City of Atlanta. In or out of politics, the Denson community service dynasty will continue.
Another prominent face, on seemingly every billboard in Athens is that of entrepreneur and Dawgs super fan, Reign Streiter. His broad grin and clean-shaven pate call to mind a more congenial Mr. Clean, with that white t-shirt replaced by Bulldog colors and a strong following of friends and customers. If you don't see Reign sign at most every major Athens intersection, touting Team Reign, and spirited, feel good sayings of the day, just look for him Between the Hedges prior to most every UGA home game.
Reign graduated from UGA, first becoming an educator, and from every account, he loved teaching and his students loved him. But with a growing family, he decided he also needed to increase his income, and he then began a side enterprise of selling cars. His approach was very unique, as he might ask you about your dream car, that you never owned, or the one that got away, as part of sizing up your needs.
Within a few years, he moved on to more lucrative enterprises, and after securing his realtor's license, he began selling homes. In no time and for six consecutive years, the Reign Man became the TOP selling realtor in Athens/Clarke County, and though he was happy making money for himself as well as his lead brokers, he wanted to do more, and give back some of the success he was finding to the community.
And out of that desire, just over a year ago, he birthed Give Back Realty. Reign and his team of Athens' top realtors donate 10% of their real estate commissions to a growing list of nearly 20 Athens area charities and non-profits from every sale closing. It is not unusual for sale and purchase customers to now also match that gift. During Team Reign's first year in business, this Give Back Realty 10% community reinvestment has resulted in well over $105,000 in direct donations to the coffers of local Athens charities and non-profits. And if you do the math on how well the overall enterprise is doing, multiply those gifts by ten, and that's gross commissions, which at best are seven percent of the sale price of the homes and commercial buildings being offered. That big smile of Reign's rolls over onto a LOT of other faces.
Give Back customers run the gamut, first time home-buyers, former UGA football coaches to college sports broadcast giant, IMG (a tenant in Give Back Realty and Team Reign's office building). It's easy to see given the community's return on investment by moving real estate thru Give Back, that the firm and the Reign Man will likely soon be expanding into other Georgia cities looking to slightly recast the real estate business.
And Athens leaders aren't limited to living IN the Classic City, the CEO of my own home and DeKalb County government is another Athenian, Michael Thurmond, the former legislator, State Labor Commissioner and DeKalb Schools Superintendent also has a decades long history of servant leadership and public service. And I'm happy to note that Georgia's Governor-elect, Brian Kemp, is also still an Athenian, as well as a developer, entrepreneur, former State Senator and Secretary of State. Georgia should be in good hands. As the New Year approaches, I hope that Athens will keep producing more servant leaders who walk their talk and set great examples for the rest of us, like Mayor Nancy Denson, the Reign Man and others. And with the Sugar Bowl in the Big Easy just coming into view...Go Athens and Go Dawgs too!!