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Suwanee candidates weigh consistency, change

SUWANEE -- Ask Jimmy Burnette and Doug Ireland, and there's not much to complain about around Suwanee these days.

Ask their opponents in Tuesday's election for mayor and city council, respectively, and you get a different answer.

"We've got a lot going for our community," said Burnette, a Suwanee councilman since 1996 making his first run at mayor. "We've just got to make sure that we keep the vision moving forward and make it even better. At the end of the day, I think people expect it and anticipate it, and many have moved here (because of the city's reputation)."

Suwanee Mayor

Name: Jimmy Burnette

Age: 59

Occupation: Residential remodeling

Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology, Georgia Southern University; North Gwinnett High School

Political Experience: Suwanee City Council since 1996

Family: Wife, Caron; sons, Jim and Bryan; grandchildren Darcy and Sean

Name: Dan Pittman

Age: 49

Occupation: Sales of convenience gas station petroleum equipment

Education: Associates degree in industrial controls from DeKalb Technical College

Political Experience: None

Family: Wife, Susie; daughters, Lillie, 13, and Amanda, 9; son, Sam, 12

Burnette is going up against Dan Pittman, a petroleum equipment salesman, to replace retiring Mayor Dave Williams. Ireland, a salesman whose only political experience was a recent two-month stint on Suwanee's planning and zoning board, is matched up against Jimmy Spiro for the Post 1 council seat.

"Suwanee has been run very very efficiently, there are no big pressing issues that I see," Ireland said. "What I see is a continuation of the same leadership that's been displayed for the last decade."

Not that Pittman and Spiro don't love Suwanee -- they just believe there are real issues to be worked on. Both pointed to a growing city debt and a need for greater citizen input.

Pittman claimed many of those on local committees like "20/20 Vision" were not city taxpayers.

"I want citizens' voices to be heard in Suwanee," he said. "I don't want special interest groups to override our citizens."

Suwanee COUNCIL POST 1

Name: Doug Ireland

Age: 38

Occupation: Owner, Freeland Painting & Construction

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, distribution management and international business from Indiana University

Political Experience: Suwanee Planning and Zoning Board

Family: Wife, Keri; son, Jackson, 17 months

Name: Jimmy Spiro

Age: 71

Occupation: Retired from printing industry

Education: Some college

Political Experience: None

Family: Widower; two grown children

Spiro, a retired printing industry salesman, admitted that the oft-celebrated fact that Suwanee was once named one of "Money" magazine's top places to live was a good thing. He also, however, said that was a good sign to stop spending.

"Shouldn't that be saying that you've got enough stuff, whatever that stuff is?" Spiro said. "What's one more park, one more million-dollar vegetable garden? I think we need to enjoy what the city has to offer, and to begin to enjoy the freedom of less debt."

Spiro and Pittman printed a joint postcard recently listing five reasons for Suwanee residents to vote in Tuesday's elections: 1. Be the voice of the taxpayers of Suwanee. 2. The city needs to save more before the city spends more. 3. Debt in 2001 was $193,000, in 2010 $22,561,203. 4. Appoint only taxpayers on boards and committees that direct or influence spending. 5. Offer a venue for public questions and public answers in your city.

While both pointed to maintaining the level of success Suwanee has enjoyed in recent years, Burnette and Ireland aren't resting solely on laurels. Both pointed to the importance of helping bring businesses to Suwanee.

"I just want to make sure that we keep going in that direction, ensure the vision," Burnette said. "And I think I'm the person for it because of being part of so much of it (as a councilman)."

Added Ireland, who has lived in Suwanee for eight years: "I'm a small business owner, and I'd like to see us continue to attract businesses to the community in a fiscally responsible way. I want people to vote for me because I believe in the same philosophy that's gotten us where we're at now."