LAWRENCEVILLE -- Observers need not look hard to find common buzzwords among candidates for City Council in Gwinnett's county seat:
Six candidates will vie Nov. 8 for two open council posts. Among them are political newcomers touting fresh ideas and more seasoned politicians with experience under their belts. All point to the proposed expansion of Gwinnett County Airport's Briscoe Field, a move that could accommodate commercial flights in the county, as hot topic No. 1.
Lawrenceville Council Post 3
Name: Robert Clark
Occupation: Retired educator
Education: Bachelor's and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Tennessee
Political Experience: Four years on Lawrenceville City Council
Family: Wife, Valerie; sons, Pearson, 21, and Barrett, 20
Name: Eric Reid
Occupation: Residential real estate broker
Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota
Political Experience: None
Family: Two adopted children, ages 1 and 2
Name: Bradley Sullivan
Education: Some college
Political Experience: None
Lawrenceville Council Post 4
Name: Renita Hamilton
Occupation: Wedding and event planner
Education: Bachelor's degree in mass communication, Master's degree in strategic leadership from Savannah State University
Political Experience: None
Family: Son, Kaleb, 13
Name: Peter “P.K.” Martin
Occupation: Insurance agent
Education: Bachelor's degree in international affairs from Georgia Tech
Political Experience: Six years on Lawrenceville City Council
Family: Wife, Amanda; daughter, Charlotte, 6, and son, Kuhl, 4
Name: Rex Millsaps
Occupation: certified public accountant
Education: Bachelor's degree from Georgia State University
Political Experience: Member of Georgia House of Representatives (1983-1984), City of Lawrenceville mayor (2006-2010)
Family: Wife, Sheila; daughters, Melissa, 36, Karla, 27; sons, Andy, 40, and Chad, 36
The city boasts an enlivened downtown and a blossoming institution in Georgia Gwinnett College. Candidates expressed interest in linking the two, and in rejuvenating commercial corridors with investment incentives. The city has made recent strides with decorative signage that points to landmarks and gives a more uniform appearance.
Lawrenceville carries four city council posts, plus a mayor. All council seats are two-year terms. A referendum on this year's ballot asks voters if retail Sunday alcohol sales (beer and wine) should be allowed.
Of six candidates, only councilman P.K. Martin (Post 4) is an incumbent. Councilwoman Katie Hart Smith has opted not to seek reelection for Post 3.
Council Post 3
Retired educator and past city councilman Robert Clark is passionate about stopping efforts to privatize or expand the airport "once and for all," calling the proposed expansion "the greatest threat" to the city. Clark had served as principal at three Gwinnett County schools.
"The defeat of this idea is critical for Lawrenceville to attract residents and businesses," Clark said. "I'm working to oppose any effort -- including a contractual agreement between the county and a private entity -- that might lead to commercial passenger service."
Eric Reid, a residential real estate broker, is critical of council members who approved an airport expansion in 2008 under the city's 2030 Comprehensive Plan, he said. Beyond discouraging an airport expansion, Reid said the council should focus on zoning and code enforcement to reinforce sagging property values.
"Like most of Lawrenceville, I have seen my home go from an investment in my family's financial security to a rapidly depreciating liability," Reid said.
Bradley Sullivan, whose diverse career includes songwriting and producing music alongside investing, also disparages the "unfavorable changes" an expanded airport would bring, he said. Encouraging tourism and more attractive shopping options in downtown Lawrenceville could buttress the "Mayberry" vision Sullivan has for the city he loves.
"I'm not a 'politician.' I'm not going to tell people what they want to hear," Sullivan said. "I speak from the heart."
Council Post 4
Renita Hamilton, a wedding and event planner, believes her relative inexperience in politics is a good thing, in that it offers her a fresh and innovative perspective to solving problems. In addition to thwarting airport expansion efforts, Hamilton is adamant about redesigning the city's infrastructure and image.
"My ideas will enhance the quality of life for all residents and business owners," Hamilton said. "I am fully vested in the city, its growth and educating our children."
Insurance agent Peter Martin, who's logged six years on the council, said he gels with the current council and has shown a willingness to compromise for the good of the city. With the proximity of Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Medical Center, Martin believes the possibility of attracting more high-paying jobs is real.
"I will continue to fight for making sure Lawrenceville is protected from ill-advised (airport) expansion plans," Martin said. "We'll also continue to pursue additional greenspace, neighborhood improvements and (investment) incentives."
Former Lawrenceville mayor and Georgia state representative Rex Millsaps believes his experience gives him an edge in the race for Post 4. A certified public accountant, Millsaps called his tenure in city government invaluable and said the council post is appealing in that it allows him to vote on every issue. Such as the airport.
"The fact that (expansion and commercialization) is even being discussed is having devastating effects on our property values," Millsaps said.