Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Gary Pirkle shakes hands with Steve Edwards while sitting next to his sons Jake, left and Scott, right, after hearing the election results giving him his third term as Sugar Hill mayor on Tuesday. Pirkle beat opponent Andy Sudderth 699 to 634.
SUGAR HILL -- Incumbents edged challengers and a political newcomer was victorious in Sugar Hill municipal races that were -- in the eyes of two winning candidates -- marred by dirty politics.
Incumbent Mayor Gary Pirkle trumped a longtime city business owner by 65 votes (699-634) to snag a third term, according to unofficial results. Pirkle's political ally and incumbent City Council Post 5 member Mike Sullivan had the night's most decisive victory, edging Scott Pasell 708-612.
Tuesday's voter turnout of 1,335 (absentee ballots included) was the highest since 2005, said Jeanne Ferguson, election superintendent. The turnout bested 2007's total by 468 voters.
Moments after his apparent victory, Pirkle said he was disappointed, in that Council Post 4 candidate Shohn Tanner, a Planning and Zoning Committee veteran, fell by a slim margin (649-636) to Curtis Northrup.
Tanner had informally partnered with Pirkle and Sullivan to spread common views on many of the city's most pressing issues.
"I'm disappointed in the negativity and the distortions that our opponents put out," Pirkle said. "I appreciate the people of Sugar Hill seeing through that misinformation."
Northrup could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Sullivan said a sitting member of the city council spearheaded a door-to-door campaign spreading untruths among Sugar Hill's 17,000 residents, namely that the construction of projects like a new city hall and Gary Pirkle Park will bankrupt the city, Sullivan said. No formal debates were held, he said.
"I think a large number of the votes were based on fear of incorrect information," said Sullivan, who was voted to a second term.
On a more positive note, added Sullivan, "I think the integrity of the council has withstood this election," he said. "I think people in general are very happy with the direction of the city."
Pirkle, a computer engineer by trade, concurred.
"We're going to get (the namesake) park opened and city hall built and continue doing business in a positive fashion for Sugar Hill," Pirkle said. "It's a great place to live now, and I appreciate the voters keeping us going in that direction."
Plans are under way for a three-story city hall building in Sugar Hill's downtown. Pirkle has estimated the cost at $9 million, with $7 million paid in SPLOST funding and the rest from city coffers.
The under-construction greenspace would be the city's first new park in 30 years.
All seats carry four-year terms. The election results are expected to be certified Friday.