Norcross seats up for grabs

NORCROSS - This summer, Michael Lovelady served as Norcross's acting mayor, but the temporary promotion may be weighing on voters minds as they go back to the polls to decide if he continues to be a councilman.

Lovelady faces Jeff Allen in a runoff for his second term. Former councilwoman Julie Barks is trying to mount a comeback, but Keith Shewbert stands in the way.

Residents can vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Allen vs. Lovelady

Allen, a political newcomer, says Lovelady's stint as acting mayor, which he served when Mayor Lillian Webb was hospitalized after breaking her hip, was a symptom of Lovelady's lack of respect for Webb.

But the incumbent said he simply took the position to keep the city running smoothly. He said he is aware that people are choosing sides between him and Webb, but he said people should pay closer attention to what he's done in two years in office.

"There was no power grab," he said. "There's no doubt the mayor and myself haven't seen eye-to-eye on issues. It's just a question of approach. ... It's a status quo versus we need to be prepared to face what's coming at us."

Lovelady described recent uproar over a study to consider annexing portions of Buford Highway and Peachtree Corners as "a campaign tool."

He said the idea was only mentioned as a possibility to study for the upcoming legislative session, and he has since asked that it be shelved.

But Allen said Lovelady hasn't listened to voters.

"You're either in the Lovelady camp or against it," he said. "But we're all in this same camp. All of us want the best things for Norcross."

Lovelady said he's proud of his efforts to open up the government to greater scrutiny, including opening discussions about land purchases to the public. He lead efforts to buy a historic church and convert it into a cultural arts center and to increase marking for the city and funding for the Downtown Development Authority.

Allen wants to see more funding for the police department and a tax break for seniors.

"The overall objective is fiscal responsibility that includes planning before spending," he said.

Barks vs. Shewbert

In the second runoff race, Julie Barks and Keith Shewbert are both trying to keep out of the spat between Lovelady and the mayor.

Barks, who served six years on the council before a defeat in 2002, said she wants to bring civility to the board.

"I don't like this fighting," she said. "I loved working for the citizens of Norcross. I think we need a woman on that council."

Now that the city has an administrator handling the day-to-day operations of the government, Barks said the council can concentrate on policies.

She wants to see the recent greenspace purchases put into trusts and developed into parks and attention turned from land acquisition to road resurfacing and utility maintenance.

She said some sections of the city are feeling neglected, a situation which should be remedied.

As a leader in the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, Shewbert is laying out a platform that includes embracing the city's changing demographics.

He wants to place more emphasis on planning for the growth of the Buford Highway corridor and other areas instead of a more reactive style of zoning.

"We're going to see a huge transition on Buford Highway," he said. "We can't do nothing. Hopefully we can craft the kind of growth we want."

Shewbert also said he wants to see a more unified council, and he wants to actively seek out input from residents.