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Six new mayors to take office
Loganville and Statham pass drink measures

LAWRENCEVILLE - The faces of local municipal leadership will change, after Tuesday's election placed six new mayors in office in Gwinnett and Barrow.

Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer was the only contested incumbent to pull out an outright win, though it was hardly a landslide, with only 19 votes determining the winner.

Norcross's Lillian Webb will have to enter a Dec. 4 runoff to decide if she will earn her 14th term in city government. She will face political newcomer Bucky Johnson.

The new mayors who replace outgoing leaders provide an old feel for many of the abodes:

n Lilburn's Diana Preston was a long-time council member before taking on Ken Swaim for the city's highest office.

n Suwanee's Dave Williams also served a council term and had the backing of the current mayor and council in his hard-fought campaign against Tom McConnell.

n Duluth's Nancy Harris also had the backing of the establishment. The well-known former elementary school principal took on newcomer Jim Johnson.

n Auburn's Linda Blechinger was a former councilwoman endorsed by the current mayor. She squeaked by with six more votes than William Ackworth.

n Bethlehem Councilman Sandy McNabb will rise to the city's top post after a 34-5 win over Scott Walsh.

n Winder's new mayor is George "Chip" Thompson, whose grandfather governed the city in the 1920s.

The fourth time proved to be the charm for Loganville, where restaurants finally mustered enough support for a liquor referendum. Voters in Statham reached the same decision.

All nine Gwinnett cities approved redevelopment referenda, which will allow the possible creation of tax allocation districts to fund infrastructure improvements.

In Buford, where the only measure on ballots was the revitalization proposal, supporters came out in force, giving it a 99-13 margin.

But City Clerk Kim Wolfe said that meant only about 3 percent of voters came to the polls.

Although Snellville's hotly contested mayoral run had a lower than expected turnout, according to the city clerk, other elections brought a surge of voters to the polls.

"I think the voter turnout was the best it's been in years," said Duluth's Harris.

"I hope that many turn out for the runoff," added Maxine Garner, a council hopeful who will square off against Greg Whitlock in a Dec. 4 bout.

In addition to the Norcross mayoral runoff, Gene Greeson and Susan Robinson will compete for a Dacula council seat and Bill Healan and Alfonza Brown will campaign for a Barrow County commission seat.

While the redevelopment and liquor referenda were met with success, voters were heavily swayed against starting a police department in Sugar Hill and changing council terms in Norcross.

No problems were reported immediately at the 13 Gwinnett cities hosting elections Tuesday, the first time city voters were required to provide photo identification.

"We didn't have one person that didn't have a photo ID with them," Snellville City Clerk Sharon Lowery said. "The state has done a good job (getting the word out), so people were prepared."