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Bannister's move thwarted on regional board

A year after establishing a new wave of leadership in Gwinnett County, Charles Bannister wanted to take the county's new direction downtown.

But the county chairman couldn't muster enough support on the Atlanta Regional Commission to get it done.

On Wednesday, Bannister's attempt to appoint a new citizen member to the board, which takes a regional look at development in the 10-county Atlanta area, was thwarted.

Bannister wanted to replace Judy Waters, a former county commissioner whose term on the board was expiring, with Sam Brownlee.

"I have no personal problem with Judy, but I thought if we had someone who was more assimilated with this set of commissioners it would be better," he said.

Brownlee was Gwinnett's county manager in the 1980s but was fired by Wayne Hill when he took office.

Bannister beat Hill in Gwinnett's 2004 election, but as the county chairman for a dozen years, Hill still has a lot of friends at the ARC.

The politics started brewing before Wednesday's meeting, and Brownlee decided to withdraw his name from consideration instead of bringing up old wounds.

Bannister said he still wanted to find his own appointee and was under the impression he could delay the nomination for a month.

"It didn't really surface until we were there," he said.

When it became clear the board wasn't interested in waiting, Bannister threw out the name of Chip Randall, a member of the county's Recreation Authority, but another board member nominated Waters for another term.

Bannister said the move was spearheaded by Buford City Commission Chairman Philip Beard, a member of the ARC for more than a decade. Beard did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

Waters said she didn't attend the meeting. She said she offered to continue serving on the board but wasn't offended by Bannister's decision to go with another nomination.

"I want to do what's best for Gwinnett County," she said, adding that she talked to Bannister later about the incident and felt their relationship had not been damaged.

"I've supported him for the year I've been there and hopefully we'll continue," she said.

The news, though, pushed some buttons. A couple of legislators say they may consider action to address the issue.

"We're appalled that a board is capable of appointing themselves, whether it's the ARC or any other board," Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, said. "The state Legislature allows boards to run their own rules until we see an issue where they're out of line."

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.