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Suwanee to vote for a new mayor, city council member

SUWANEE - Two Suwanee residents say they have what it takes to fill the role as mayor of the city they've lived in for more than a decade.

Tom McConnell and Dave Williams have three more days to continue their campaign to fill the seat held for eight years by Nick Masino.

A retired business owner, McConnell believes his years of experience in that field will be of great value if he is elected.

"In running a business, you learn how to manage money; you understand checks and balances," McConnell said. "And I believe I can take those skills and those tools and put them into the leadership of Suwanee."

Some issues on the forefront of McConnell's mind are traffic, growth, safety and preserving the city's greenspace. He said the city needs a much more balanced approach to growth and development.

"A lot of good things have happened in Suwanee, but we can't keep breaking our necks with build, build, build," McConnell said. "We can't keep going at this rate."

McConnell said better management of city funds and using taxpayers' money wisely is also at the top of his list. The candidate describes his approach to politics as good, honest, reliable leadership and said he plans to be responsive to residents' concerns.

"There's a lot to do, and it's going to be a challenge," McConnell said.

Having served one four-year term on City Council in 1997, fellow mayoral candidate Dave Williams said Suwanee is implementing today the plans he and others set forth 10 years ago. And he said there is still work to do.

"I want to continue to implement smart land strategies and sensible development," Williams said. "And I want to continue to be a champion for strong civic engagement and citizenship."

Williams said his strong political record of 10 years is what sets him apart.

"Suwanee is the envy of almost every city in this state," Williams said. "Our secret is we have people who collaborate and work together, and that is at stake with the election. I hope the voters understand that."

Incumbent Jimmy Burnette and Rick Welsch are running for a City Council seat, and both have some of the same concerns their mayoral candidate counterparts do.

Welsch said though he's lived in Suwanee for 14 years he doesn't believe the quality of life has improved.

"When I moved here we had a population of 4,000 - Suwanee was a sleepy little village - now we have a population of 15,000, 16,000 people," Welsch said. The city is experiencing a lot of pressure from the growth and he offers tightening of development codes as one solution.

Preserving greenspace and building more environmentally friendly buildings is also important to Welsch, an engineer.

"I've got a lot of experience in construction and these buildings we're building right now are not long-term constructions," Welsch said.

Burnette said, if elected, he plans to focus on continuing work on the city's historic district and the Interstate 85 gateway project.

"I've been on the council for 12 years and I've been instrumental in a lot of the planning," Burnette said. "I plan to work with local and state and regional leaders to help preserve the high quality of life (in Suwanee)."

Jeannine Rispin is running unopposed for the final council seat.

Residents will also vote on a referendum for redevelopment powers to set a tax allocated district.

Registered voters may cast their ballot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Crossroads Center, 323 Buford Highway.

SideBar: The candidates

MAYOR

Tom McConnell

' Age: 59

' Occupation: Retired from Atlanta Pool and Supply

' Education: Bachelor of business administration from University of West Georgia

' Political experience: None

' Family: Wife, Julie Anna; children, Thomas, 15

' Contact: www.mayorofsuwanee.com;

tsmcconnell@bellsouth.net

Dave Williams

' Age: 41

' Occupation: President Southtrac, a marketing company in Suwanee

' Education: Graduated with bachelors in management from Georgia Tech

' Political experience: Four years on Suwanee City Council; four years on Atlanta Regional Commission

' Family: Wife, Debbie; children, Max, 7, Ramsey, 10

' Contact: 770-831-1530; www.daveforsuwanee.com; dave@daveforsuwanee.com

City Council Post 1

Jimmy Burnette

' Age: 55

' Occupation: Residential remodeling, Burnette Renovations, Inc.

' Education: Bachelor of science from Georgia Southern University

' Political experience: 12 years Suwanee City Council

' Family: Wife, Caron; children, James, 34, Bryan, 29

' Contact: 770-945-3492, jmbjr13@bellsouth.net

Rick Welsch

' Age: 45

' Occupation: Professional engineer and business owner, Penta Engineering

' Education: Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from University of Tennessee

' Political experience: None

' Family: Wife, Roxanne; children, Tyler, 16, Becca, 15, Sierra, 12

' Contact: www.rickwelsch.com; rwwelsch@mindspring.com