LAWRENCEVILLE — After nearly three decades working for Gwinnett’s government, Charlotte Nash knows the time that will define her legacy is in front of her.
The Dacula woman has already made strides as the first female finance director, then the first woman county administrator.
With Tuesday’s special election victory, she will soon take the helm as the second woman to head the Board of Commissioners (third, if you count vice chairwoman Shirley Lasseter who took the reins when Charles Bannister resigned last October).
“My behavior and how I approach the job of being chairman is what people are going to judge me on,” Nash said, adding a quick quip to the question of her new title: chairman or chairwoman? “Call me Charlotte,” she said.
Always respected among her peers, this is the first time Nash has come before the electorate, and she said the experience has been exciting.
“The bigger difference is a former county administrator being elected. That doesn’t happen too frequently,” she said, brushing off the accomplishment to her gender.
“It was strange. It was exciting in lots of ways, the people I got to meet,” she said, pointing out her six years of retirement. “It was very tiring. I was quickly back on the early morning to late in the night schedule, trying to cover as much of the county as I could.”
Nash also took pride in gaining more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff, despite the three others in the race. According to unofficial results, Tucker’s Larry Gause came closest to Nash’s 56 percent with 26 percent of the vote. Retired assistant police chief Duane Kissel and businessman Will Costa both had about nine percent.
Despite the recent resident angst over tax increases and budget cuts, voters trickled in to polls Tuesday to decide on the new leader.
With fewer than 20,000 ballots cast, Nash received less than 10,000 votes in a county of 800,000, but it was plenty for the victory.
The key, she said, was the group of volunteers and supporters who worked during the campaign.
“I owe them so much,” she said. “I need to never forget that people having faith in me is what caused me to win this election.”
Even before the oath of office ceremony has been set, Nash said she is turning her attention to the county’s budget, where commissioners recently plugged an $18 million hole.
That annual document had been the focus of much of her career with Gwinnett, and it soon will be again.
“The budget situation becomes sort of the background for anything else,” she said, adding that she will also quickly delve into litigation over water and the service delivery stalemate with local cities.
“It’s been six years since I was there. I’m sure I’m going to have to get caught up on a lot of things.”
One small matter that may help: Nash said she will not draw a salary and a pension check from Gwinnett at the same time. She is working with staff to determine if the salary will be waived or pension suspended for a portion of each year.