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'A fresh start:' Nash sworn in as new chairwoman

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Gwinnett County probate judge Walter J. Clarke, left, swears in Charlotte Nash as Gwinnett County Commission Chairman on Monday afternoon alongside her husband, Michael, at a ceremony at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Gwinnett County probate judge Walter J. Clarke, left, swears in Charlotte Nash as Gwinnett County Commission Chairman on Monday afternoon alongside her husband, Michael, at a ceremony at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

LAWRENCEVILLE — The long-awaited swearing in of Gwinnett’s new chairwoman was enough to keep a congressman home from Washington.

Hundreds of people — politicians, campaign workers, county staffers and local residents — filled the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium to watch as Dacula native Charlotte Nash took the gavel as chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners, six months after her predecessor left in disgrace.

“It’s an important time in Gwinnett County’s history, and I pledge to each of you that I’m going to do my best to do what’s right for Gwinnett County,” Nash told the crowd. “I ... give you permission to hold me accountable.”

The retired county administrator won a special election earlier this month to replace Charles Bannister, who resigned in October to avoid perjury charges as a special grand jury investigated questionable land deals. Nash has pledged to restore public trust and move quickly on issues that have plagued the county.

“There was a leadership vacuum that just stopped progress,” said Rebecca Branstetter, a Lawrenceville woman who came to the courthouse for the ceremony. “I’m excited that Gwinnett is getting back on track, at full strength and with a commission chairwoman that is ready to hit the ground running.”

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson said he was hopeful Nash could heal a rift with city officials that had landed the governments in court for the past two years.

“I think we’re going to see a fresh start,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, who had to step in as vice chair after Bannsiter resigned, shouted with glee as she passed Nash the ceremonial gavel.

“You don’t know how wonderful this looks, to have this room filled with happy people,” she said, referring to months of contentious meetings after another commissioner was indicted by the grand jury. “We are very happy for this day. As commissioners, we are completely thrilled to have a full team on board.”

Along with family and friends, the crowd contained dozens of county employees, past and present commissioners, two school board members, three mayors and other elected officials including District Attorney Danny Porter, who had back surgery last month.

Congressman Rob Woodall stood in the back.

“We always have challenges. When we can turn the page and move on to a new chapter, that’s exciting to me,” Woodall said. “It’s a big day for Gwinnett, and I wanted to be a part of it.”