Suwanee Council recalls year's accomplishments

SUWANEE -- With two new faces, and a familiar face in a new role, the City Council in Suwanee had plenty of new perspectives this year, especially when a departing member had a decade of experience on the council.

Some memorable accomplishments during the year were the unveiling of a $1.99 million police substation near Interstate 85, an application for a national historic district in the Old Town area and a strategic plan called "20/20."

City officials also rehabilitated the Suwanee Creek Greenway and began a landscaping project of the medians along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

"The strategic plan was certainly critically important, probably can't overstate that," City Manager Marty Allen said. "The rehabilitation of the greenway is probably overlooked, and maintaining what we have to high levels is at the core of what we need to do. We're not getting behind; even though we're doing new things, we're not letting things we have decay."

New Councilwoman Beth Hilscher replaced Jace Brooks who, after 10 years on the board, resigned to run a successful campaign to join the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. Councilman Doug Ireland was also in his first year serving the city.

"They really get along," Allen said of the Council. "It's based on trust, and they don't question people's motivations. That makes it a lot easier to get things done."

Ireland cast the first dissenting vote on the council since January 2011, and the first non-unanimous vote on a policy issue since December 2007. It was about a rezoning issue related to a self-storage facility that was approved two weeks later.

Hilscher joined the council in July, and is the first woman to serve since 2009.

"I've gained a greater respect for the staff, as well as my fellow council members," Hilscher said. "Because I feel like everyone truly has the city's best interest at mind, and at heart."

While Burnette has served on the council since 1996, this was his first year as mayor.

"You think you have a little grasp, but the mayor is quite a bit different than a council member," Burnette said. "They expect you to have the answers and lead the way."

Burnette admits he's not a polished public speaker, and realizes there is room for him to improve in that role, and to attract economic development to the city.

"I want to step that up next year, now that I've had a little experience doing that," he said. "I feel like I need to move into that area a little bit more."