Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 005 Gwen O'Looney interviewed by Betsy Bean, Part 2Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 005 Gwen O'Looney interviewed by Betsy Bean, Part 2

Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 005 Gwen O'Looney interviewed by Betsy Bean, Part 2

Descriptive Summary

Title: Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 005 Gwen O'Looney interviewed by Betsy Bean, Part 2
Creator: Bean, Betsy
Creator: O'Looney, Gwen
Dates: 2014 December 10
Extent: 1.0 interview
Collection Number: RBRL/361/AOHP
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: Gwendolyn Ingram O’Looney grew up on St. Simon’s Island, graduated from the University of Georgia, and has worked in human service positions throughout her career. In this follow-up interview, O’Looney discusses more specifically the initiatives relating to solid waste management, water management, and economic development that she coordinated during her terms in office as mayor of Athens-Clarke County. She also discusses the partnership created between the city-county government and the University of Georgia, the improvement of transportation infrastructure, and the redevelopment of East Athens.

Collection Description

Biographical note

Gwendolyn Ingram O’Looney was born in Meridian, Mississippi and grew up in St. Simons Island, Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, and upon graduation, she served as a nurse during the Vietnam War. Later in her career, she served as Director of the Youth Division of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, as state coordinator of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and as founder of Community Connection. She served in the Human Resources department of former governor Jimmy Carter, and as director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. O’Looney served two terms on the Athens City Council, and later was elected to the office of mayor, otherwise known as Chief Elected Officer (CEO), of Athens. She was the first mayor of the newly-established unified Athens-Clarke County, where she served two terms.

Scope and Content

O’Looney discusses her initiative in creating a more participatory government by increasing communication between government and constituents. She discusses working to negotiate environmental concerns, such as reforming of the Clarke County landfill, creating a landfill partnership with neighboring Oglethorpe County, and creating a reservoir and water management system. O’Looney talks about her advocacy for water management and conservation measures, and the opposition she received, and she describes her working relationship with then UGA President Chuck Knapp on issues including the development of roads around the university, controlling football game traffic, and balancing the water use by the university’s expansion.

O’Looney recalls finding sponsors for Athens during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to offset the cost of hosting, and the role of the Athens-UGA partnership in updating city and campus infrastructure and coordinating transportation of visitor in preparation of the events. O’Looney also discussed the improved relationship between university and city police, the idea of building a multimodal center for the bus system, and the development of the back of the Classic Center and preservation of the Foundry Street historic warehouses. She discusses the design and building of the entryway of highway 316 into Athens, its interaction with Loop 10, and negotiating the path of the road. She describes the redevelopment of East Athens, the investment of public funds for renewing housing, problems of gentrification, and the response by the black community. O’Looney also recalls the Widespread Panic CD release concert in downtown Athens, and working to address public opposition against it.

Administrative Information and Restrictions

Custodial History note

The Athens Oral History Project was initiated in 2014 to document modern Athens history, roughly from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Interviews cover topics such as neighborhoods and communities in Athens, civil rights demonstrations, African American history, as well as personal histories of narrators.

Preferred citation

Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 005, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.

Copyright Information

Resources may be used under the guidelines described by the U.S. Copyright Office in Section 107, Title 17, United States Code (Fair use). Parties interested in production or commercial use of the resources should contact the Russell Library for a fee schedule.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2016.

Related Materials

Access Points

Athens-Clarke County Unification Commission
Oral histories.
Women mayors.

Related Collections in this Repository

Athens Oral History Project, Gwen O'Looney interviewed by Betsy Bean, Part 1

Athens Oral History Project

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

AOHP 005 Gwen O'Looney video, 2014 December 10 (Extent: 112.0 minutes ) Access Online