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Oberholtzer narrowly wins mayor's race

SNELLVILLE - By a margin of 19 votes, Jerry Oberholtzer won his second term as Snellville's mayor.

Incumbent Councilwoman Kelly Kautz also won her first full term during Tuesday's election.

"It was closer than I wanted, but all I needed was 50 percent plus one," Oberholtzer said of the unofficial results, a tally of 1,101 to Bruce Garraway's 1,082.

The city had a lower than expected turnout in the third controversial mayor's race in a decade.

"We were steady basically all day, but we've had races that were much busier during the afternoon," City Clerk Sharon Lowery said. "I was surprised at that."

In 1999, the city's long-time mayor Emmett Clower lost his seat after 26 years to a political newcomer. In 2003, he tried to make a comeback, challenging Oberholtzer for the seat. At the time seeking a council post, Garraway was Oberholtzer's running mate.

But over the past several years, the two had a falling out and fought over matters from liquor sales at restaurants to the city's form of government.

Most recently, the campaigns squared off, with Garraway distributing Oberholtzer's friend's cell phone number after the friend, former councilman Joe Anderson, complained about Garraway calling a police officer outside of the city limits to unlock his car.

Garraway didn't return a phone call Tuesday.

"This is probably the most vicious campaign. ... I think the negative at the end was to depress my turnout. It worked," Oberholtzer said. "But 19 votes, I'll take that."

Kautz, who supported Garraway, said she was tired after a long day waving at voter's Tuesday.

"I'm happy. It's bittersweet because of the mayor's race, but I'm glad the voters gave me four more years to accomplish the things I wanted done," she said.

After winning by a margin of 1,230 to 951, Kautz said she would continue her effort to revive the city's economic development authority and to consider a Martin Luther King Day celebration in the city.

Challenger Marilyn Swinney did not return a phone call Tuesday.

With a three-to-three split in general on the council, Oberholtzer said the two sides have already made efforts to reach out to one another.

"There's going to be a lot of compromises," he said. "There are things we can agree on and I think we can bring forward."

The first matter of business, he said, is finding a permanent replacement for former city manager Jeff Timler, who resigned earlier this year charging micromanagement from councilmembers.