MURPHY: Who wants to be Gwinnett's next commission chairman?

J.K. Murphy 

J.K. Murphy 

It’s too early to make a short list for the March 15 special election that will fill the void left by Charles Bannister’s resignation as the Gwinnett County Commission chairman. Still, folks are talking about who can lead Gwinnett out of its malaise.

The county commission has been struggling. A primary cause is the lack of ability to come to terms, make a decision and stick to a decision once made.

Too often what should be commission business ends up in the courts — think millage rate, trash plan, service agreement with the cities, etc.

Even when a decision is made and vote taken, our current commissioners are apt to admit they really don’t agree with their own vote — think the vote to allow a check-cashing business in Gwinnett Place Mall. Commissioners voted to approve and then immediately denounced it as a mistake. If you feel strongly enough to publicly criticize the action, why did you vote for it in the first place?

Let’s look at the vacancy as an opportunity for a fresh start. Whoever lands the post needs to be a strong leader and consensus builder. He or she will have a difficult task to get all the oars in the water and pointed in the same direction.

Another difficulty being discussed is the pay. The only candidates we’ll get at the starting $50,000 annual salary plus annual increases are retirees, the independently wealthy or crooks who intend to supplement that annual income. Many who could do a great job can’t afford the pay cut.

So while I’ve already admitted that it’s too early to draw up the short list, let’s do it anyway, keeping in mind nothing’s official until the candidates qualify from Dec. 6 to 8.

The following names (in alphabetical order) have been brought up in conversations the past week regarding possible candidates. Here are their answers to the question “Are you considering a run for Gwinnett chairman?”

Mike Beaudreau, District 3 commissioner. “I considered it, but highly doubtful. I would have to resign my current board seat and that would leave the commission with only three votes.”

Butch Conway, Gwinnett County sheriff. “Hell no.”

Clay Cox, state representative who ran for 7th District congressional seat this election. “No,” with an emphatic laugh.

Lorraine Green, former district commissioner who ran for chair in 2006. “At this point in time, no.”

John Heard, former state representative currently running for the District 4 county commission post. “This time I’m not running because it would cause another election to fill the district seat. I am very seriously considering running in two years depending on the accomplishments of the commission in the next two years.”

Wayne Hill, Gwinnett commission chair for three terms from 1992 to 2004. “You never say never; it depends on the other candidates. I might look at something for the short term,” referring to the 20 months remaining in the term.

Bucky Johnson, Norcross mayor and chair of the Gwinnett Municipal Association. “No way ...”

Shirley Lasseter, former mayor of Duluth and current District 1 commissioner who is serving as acting chairman on an interim basis. “At this point in time, I am not. If I were to run, I’d have to know the citizens of Gwinnett were behind me.”

Bruce LeVell, Gwinnett GOP chairman who ran for District 1 commission in 2008. “It’s definitely on my radar. The family wants me to run; I’m 98 percent sure I will.”

Bill McCargo, formerly with Cisco, now president of the Atlanta Education Fund and co-chair of Engage Gwinnett. “It would take a lot of deliberation. I’m fully engaged in the job I’m in now, but if the county needed my services, if I could fill a void, I would consider it.”

Emory Morsberger, former state rep and businessman. “I want what’s best for Gwinnett County. But I don’t have any decision on that.”

Charlotte Nash, longtime county employee who left the county administrator position in 2004. “I have not ruled it out, but I’m not ready to decide. There’s more information to be gathered and more thought about what’s best for Gwinnett County as a whole.”

Marcia Neaton, former district commissioner who ran for chair in 2000. “Yeah, I’ve been talking to a lot of people and doing a lot of thinking. Yes, I’m considering it.”

David Post, president of Future Security. “I’m definitely considering running. The county needs somebody who knows business and economics and can read the bottom line, plus somebody who can get the department heads working together. I think I can.”

Chuck Warbington, executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District. “I am definitely interested. A lot of factors weigh into it — family, my board of directors and CID responsibilities.”

Dave Williams, mayor of Suwanee and former chair of the Gwinnett Municipal Association. “Our county deserves honest, capable leadership. I haven’t ruled anything in or out.”

There you have it with only 156 days to go until the election before we decide this thing.

J.K. Murphy is the publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.