LAWRENCEVILLE - Long-time Commissioner Kevin Kenerly will step down.
Among a crowd of friends and colleagues, Kenerly announced he would not seek re-election in 2010, ending his 16-year career representing District 4.
Later in the day, John Heard, a former state representative and Republican announced he would seek the 4th District seat.
During his announcement, Kenerly thanked his wife Beth for allowing him to devote his time to the county, where his family has lived since the 1700s, and announced that the two want to expand their brood.
As a Little League football coach, Kenerly said he is most proud of his work to expand the county park system.
"I have loved what I have done for 16 years," he said. "I love to serve. I love to fight. I probably love to campaign more than governing. ... I would run every single term, but you have to put your family first."
Kenerly said he would continue to be involved in the community and the 46-year-old said a return to politics in the future wasn't out of the question. But for now, he wants to focus on family and improving his real estate business.
With past commissioners Wayne Hill, Tommy Hughes, Judy Waters, John Dunn and Lorraine Green in attendance, alongside current commissioners, Kenerly praised his colleagues and said he hopes to help a new politician transition into his role.
"I can't tell you how much my family mean to me," he said. "You guys are my family. ... I enjoy what everybody brings to the county."
Mark Rountree, the political consultant who began working for Kenerly when he was 24 and the politician was not much older, said he admired Kenerly's strong decision-making.
"He's jovial, he's lighthearted, but what people don't understand is his decisiveness," Rountree said.
He praised Kenerly's friendship and tenacity, referring to a tough 2006 campaign, when a video of Kenerly in Las Vegas with developers was circulated anonymously to voters. That anti-Kenerly campaign tactic eventually resulted in grand jury indictments.
"He has a heart of steel," Rountree said.
In announcing his run for the seat in 2010, Heard said his experience as a state lawmaker would benefit Gwinnett County.
"These are tough economic times but I am confident, as county commissioner, I can lead the effort to make Gwinnett a better place to live," said Heard, touting his experience as chairman of the special projects appropriations committee and House study committee on energy independence as valuable in managing the county's limited resources and attracting jobs. "I will work to keep what's good, fix the problems that need fixing, keep our neighborhoods safe, and serve the best interests of the people of Gwinnett."
Heard, a Republican, lost a tight general election race last year for his Lawrenceville-based district.
The commission district stretches through the middle of the county from Lawrenceville to Braselton.