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Runoff means a focus on turnout

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Katie Hart Smith had all the momentum after the November general election.

She got 46 percent of the vote in a Lawrenceville council race to replace outgoing Councilman Bob Clark.

But because she was shy of the needed majority, she will face John Merrill in Tuesday's runoff.

"(Voters) have had an opportunity to engage with us in public forums, to ask questions and see our different personalities," she said. "I love engaging with the people."

Now, both candidates are focused on trying to get their supporters to return to the polls.

Merrill, a long-serving member of the city's planning board, said he wants to step to the forefront after working in the background on city redevelopment projects, including the deal to bring the Aurora Theatre to Lawrenceville and writing code compliance laws.

He said he is a big supporter of efforts to make the city more business friendly.

"With the sour economy today, it's kind of tough, but we need to start and move forward," he said, adding that neighborhood issues should be treated differently than business issues.

He said a strength of his campaign is that he is retired and can devote more time to the council.

But Smith said her expertise in business and health care gives her an edge, since many of the issues facing the citizens -- from the swine flu to the water wars -- deal with those two matters.

She wants to fulfill the city's well system to decrease dependence on Lake Lanier and put other city projects back on track.

Smith said her interactive Web site and Facebook page have helped engage residents that haven't been involved in city affairs before.

"I just love this journey," she said. "I love talking Lawrenceville politics and trying to bring it up a couple notches."

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lawrenceville City Hall.