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Smith, Jones win council seats

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Voters in runoff elections in both Lawrenceville and Duluth chose council members to fill vigorously contested posts in their municipal governments.

In Lawrenceville, Katie Hart Smith won the Post 3 seat with 222 votes. Opponent John Merill garnered 201 votes.

"I am ecstatic with tonight's results. It's been a marathon, and I'm so appreciative of the people of Lawrenceville's support," Smith said. "I'm thankful and humbled."

Smith has already identified a few projects that are at the top of her to-do list when she officially assumes office.

"I want to focus on water and its sustainability. I want to lessen our dependence on Lake Lanier. I also want to re-invigorate important old projects, such as continuing the revitalization of our downtown district," Smith said.

A third emphasis, according to Smith, is being proactive with filling the economic developer position for the city.

When asked about any possible future plans to serve the city, Merrill replied, "I haven't really given it a lot of thought. If there's an opportunity to serve and I can do that, I will."

A former police officer and big supporter of the Lawrenceville police department, Merrill said he would like to someday serve the department in a volunteer capacity.

"I want to say that I think the city is the winner tonight. Ms. Smith will do a good job," Merrill said.

Duluth's city council race for Post 3 ended with Billy Jones winning the seat. Jones took 337 votes, while opponent Elise Whitworth came in with 316 votes.

"I'm excited. I'm glad it's over. There are a lot of friends, family and core Duluth people who supported me," Jones said.

At the top of Jones' list of important projects are the Buford Highway corridor and tax allocation district. He also wants to get going on area road projects on Ga. Highway 120 and in the downtown area.

"I want to keep the momentum going. I'm so thankful for everyone's support. I want to hear from people; I want them to call me with their concerns and their support."

Whitworth, who lost Tuesday's election by the same number of votes by which she trailed Jones in November, said that after taking some downtime, she plans to get busy writing. "I'm planning several books, but I think the first will be 'Citizenship 101.'"

Whitworth voiced her disappointment in voter turnout Tuesday. "Out of 17,000 voters, less than 1 percent voted. I feel good that I was able to help more voters get involved, but this falls short of where American voters should be. Do we value our American liberties?"