Staff Photo: John Bohn Mayor Elect Kelly Kautz stands on a chair at a restaurant in Snellville after defeating Barbara Bender in the Snellville Mayoral election Tuesday evening.
Three Gwinnett cities have new mayors.
After a longer-than-expected election night, Johnny Crist — a pastor and one-term city councilman — topped incumbent Diana Preston for Lilburn's next mayor.
Councilmembers were also vaulted to mayor in Snellville and Suwanee, after Election Night victories by Kelly Kautz in southern Gwinnett and Jimmy Burnette Jr. on the other side of the county.
In Snellville, Kautz was surprised by her win Tuesday over Barbara Bender, another former councilwoman.
"It was just incredible support," Kautz said, thanking campaign workers for going door-to-door to meet with voters and standing on the sidewalks to wave at passers-by Tuesday. "It still hasn't sunk in."
Kautz, 34, pointed out the four of five City Council members endorsed Bender in the race.
"But the citizens elected me," she said. "I think that sends a message. I hope we can all work together and just do what's best for the city."
According to unofficial results, Kautz bested Bender by a vote of 1,468 to 1,334. Bender did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In Suwanee, long-time councilman Jimmy Burnette earned his first term as mayor with 876 votes, according to unofficial results. Opponent Dan Pittman tallied 454.
Burnette, who was born and raised in Suwanee, had served on the Suwanee City Council since 1996 before launching his first campaign for mayor after Dave Williams opted not to run for re-election. Burnette, 59, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night but told the Daily Post in a previous interview that he would look forward helping Suwanee continue its success.
"I think I've paid my dues," he said. "I grew up here, and I see how it is now ... I just want to make sure we keep going in that direction, ensure the vision. And I think I'm the person for it, because of being so much of it (as a councilman)."
Pittman, a 39-year-old salesman in his first foray into politics, called his unsuccessful run for mayor "a good experience" nonetheless.
"It's a shame my message didn't resonate," he said. "But that's part of it and I'm new to this. ... I'm disappointed that I wasn't better at articulating the concerns that we all should have."