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Commissioner candidates share revitalization objective

The Republican race for Gwinnett District 1 Commissioner pits three candidates with contrasting styles, varied political backgrounds and distinct areas of expertise.

But approaching Tuesday's primary election, each candidate attests to a common objective - revitalization and sustainability in west-central Gwinnett.

District 1 - a turkey-leg-shaped expanse that encompasses Duluth, Suwanee and much of Gwinnett's traffic-choked portion of Interstate 85 - is home to roughly 250,000 people.

The winner of the GOP primary, facing no Democratic opposition, will gain the seat.

Carol Hassell

Carol Hassell points to the highlights of her years on the Suwanee City Council and Planning Commission - the city's thriving town square and parks system, the 2007 nod from Money Magazine, for examples - as evidence of solid leadership.

"I've demonstrated the capacity to listen to all sides of an argument or an issue, to arrive at a conclusion that is as balanced as possible," she said.

Hassell, who by day is vice president of administration for the Georgia Wildlife Federation, first got involved in politics in 1997 as an "energized homeowner activist" concerned with the environmental impact the planned Mall of Georgia would have on Ivy Creek.

To this day, she stresses land conservation - including a water plan - while focusing on hot-button issues like traffic (she supports a regional transit system), a crackdown on illegal immigration (without a new detention facility here) and the need to support Gwinnett's economic vitality with tax allocation district dollars.

Shirley Fanning Lasseter

Shirley Fanning Lasseter swears by the credo, "If you want something done, give it to a busy woman."

The former 14-year mayor of Duluth - District 1's most populous city - said her tenure there lent her invaluable experience, especially in the realm of transportation. Lasseter helped secure grants to bring the Pleasant Hill Road tunnel, which ducks Buford Highway and eases traffic on several key arteries, to fruition, she said.

"I believe I can take those experiences and use them on a county level," said Lasseter, a former Gwinnett teacher who acts as the director of public safety and education for Georgia's Department of Insurance and Fire Safety. "Overall, I feel like the county is at a pivotal point. It's very important that we have experienced leadership."

The most pressing issues facing Gwinnett are transportation alternatives and public safety, she said. She also supports a controversial proposal to open a federal detention center for illegal immigrants in Gwinnett as a means to ease jail overcrowding.

Bruce LeVell

Bruce LeVell, a Pleasant Hill Road jewelry store owner who said he owes his livelihood to Gwinnettians, has approached his campaign with the gusto he shows on the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District board and as the local representative on the MARTA board of directors, he said. A businessman here for 16 years, he attests to knowing District 1 like the back of his hand, and he sees no reason why businesses should be folding near pulsing Pleasant Hill Road.

LeVell helped balance MARTA's billion dollar budget, and he's traveled the world to study different rail systems, which could help address an obvious need, he said. He's seeing more and more upper middle class families electing to take an express bus downtown.

He believes in concentrating sound development near transit stations and tightening ordinances against nightclubs, which should include a county-wide last call before 2 a.m. on weekends, he said.

Based on his door-to-door foot-soldiering, public safety is chief among resident concerns, he said.

"It's a war to get out and find out what's going on," LeVell said. "I don't want polls, opinions. I want to hear the gospel from the front door."

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Georgia Primary Election - July 15, 2008. To view the candidates, sample ballots and locate your voting precinct............. click here

SideBar: Board of Commissioners District 1

Shirley Fanning Lasseter

· Party: Republican

· Age: 60

· Residence: Duluth

· Education: Bachelor of Science from Brenau Women's College; master's in education from Georgia State University

· Occupation: Director of public safety education for the Department of Insurance and Fire Safety

· Political experience: Mayor of Duluth for 14 years; appointed to the Governor's 911 Board by two governors; elected to Board of Directors for Georgia Municipal Association

· Family: Husband, Joe Lasseter; four children and five grandchildren

Carol N. Hassell

· Party: Republican

· Age: 63

· Residence: Suwanee

· Education: Some college

· Occupation: Vice president of administration for the Georgia Wildlife Federation

· Political experience: Elected to Suwanee City Council; appointed to Suwanee Planning Commission

· Family: Husband, Powell; one stepdaughter; two step-grandchildren

Bruce LeVell

· Party: Republican

· Age: 44

· Residence: Duluth

· Education: Business management degree from Central Texas College; Continuing executive education from the University of Georgia and John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard

· Occupation: Jewelry store owner

· Political experience: MARTA Board of Directors; Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District Board of Directors

· Family: Wife, Sharon; children, Leah, 13, and Kyle, 10