Finer details will determine Lawrenceville outcomes

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The six people on the ballot in Lawrenceville's upcoming election agree on many issues.

They all oppose the expansion of Briscoe Field, Gwinnett County's general aviation airport, because they feel it would dismantle the city's quality of life. They want Lawrenceville to be filled with safe, attractive neighborhoods. They want to keep utility rates low and foster job growth in the city.

The voters will decide Tuesday who will get the job: the three incumbents -- Mayor Rex Millsaps, Councilman Mike Crow and Councilwoman Marie Beiser, or their opponents, former Councilwoman Judy Jordan Johnson, former city attorney Tony Powell or longtime resident Leon Smith. The city election will take place at Lawrenceville's City Hall.

The mayoral election will be a rematch between Millsaps and Johnson. The two ran against each other in 2008, and Johnson lost by 24 votes.

"Neighborhood leaders and business owners asked me to run again in 2010," Johnson said. "I think they recognize my vision for Lawrenceville and recognize my ability to work to see that vision a reality."

For Millsaps, running for re-election was an easy decision.

"I love my job," he said.

Millsaps said his top priority is to reopen the city's wells so Lawrenceville residents can have lower water rates.

"We've been working for four years, and the end is in sight to get the well system back on track," he said. "We have the lowest electric, gas and garbage (rates) of all the surrounding cities ... but water is higher, because Gwinnett County is charging us a retail rate for water."

Millsaps said he's served the city well, something he hopes voters will keep in mind when they cast their ballots.

"We've been able to maintain our low utility rates and we've reduced the budget every year for the last four years (from $96 million to $90 million)," he said. "We've reduced spending and haven't cut any services."

Johnson said she'll work to maintain the low utility rates, along with the low taxes.

"In order to bring transparency, I will submit a financial report before the citizens at the monthly meetings," she said.

Also on her list of priorities are keeping neighborhoods strong through the Quality of Life unit, fostering a working relationship between the city and county officials, attracting families to the city with a new park system or destination businesses, and bringing businesses to the downtown area and throughout the city to help foster quality job growth.

"I will work aggressively to help solve issues, and I will look for opportunities to make Lawrenceville the best county seat in Georgia," she said.

As for the Council seats, voters will choose between Crow or Powell and Beiser or Smith.

Like the mayor, Crow said he wants to get the new well system online to reduce water rates. He said he also wants to reduce property taxes.

"I think the best way to help each of our citizens here is to save people money on both utilities and taxes," he said. "Hopefully, it will help everyone a little bit."

Crow said he's a regular guy who views his job on the council as community service.

"I pride myself as being the most accessible person on the Council," he said, noting that his cell phone number is printed on all of his campaign signs. "I really want to be accessible to any of our people in the city and out (of it) as well."

One of Powell's top priorities is in line with one of Johnson's: making the city more financially transparent.

Powell said he decided to run because, as city attorney, he felt the current leadership was taking the city in the wrong direction, and he wants to help it get back on track.

"The citizens of Lawrenceville have known and supported me as their city attorney for 25 years," he said. "They know that I will not compromise their trust. My years of experience in overseeing the legal affairs is an advantage to help lead the city to be a community of excellence. We have great opportunities to achieve and I will not waste them."

Besier, who joined the City Council after running for a vacant seat two years ago, said one of her top priorities is to start creating the "college corridor" between Georgia Gwinnett College and downtown Lawrenceville. She also wants to improve all of the gateways to the city.

"We're making progress," said Beiser, who has lived in Lawrenceville for 48 years. "(Residents) know what I have already accomplished and that I will continue to work on those accomplishments."

Smith, a 44-year city resident who served on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, said he never had any political ambitions, but he was encouraged to run in this election.

"I want to see Lawrenceville stay a great place to live and raise a family," he said. "I hope (residents) will vote for me because I can get the job done. I'm a conservative and financially responsible with money. I listen to people and will address their concerns. I'll provide efficient and effective services to all people."