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Commission ethics a cloud over District 3 race

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Since a special grand jury released a scathing report -- and indictment -- on Gwinnett commissioners' land purchase practices in 2010, only one commissioner has remained in office: District 3's Mike Beaudreau.

The incumbent, who is now Gwinnett's longest-serving (current) commissioner by six years, never faced ethical or criminal charges in the controversies that rocked the government. But now he faces a big test: a Republican primary against three foes.

"Any incumbent has got to defend himself. That's OK," Beaudreau said of the race, where he has fired back against robo-calls, mailers and other public accusations, trying to focus on his accomplishments and record. "The difficult decisions are not over. I've got plenty of experience in dealing with them."

While his opponents have cast him in the same negative role as the commissioners who left the job in disgrace, Beaudreau said many of his constituents remember that he was the one who called attention to the land deals and asked for ethics reform before the problems came to light.

But Beaudreau was deposed as part of the scandal, pointed out Mike Korom, a Dacula man who emerged on the political scene to fight against the now-defunct proposal to add commercial flights at the county airport.

"My primary mission is to transform the commission's 'Country Club Republican' culture into one of genuine middle-class conservatism," Korom said. "Gwinnett government has too often aimed to serve the county's affluent, land barons and developers. I will tilt the commission back toward a mindset of serving citizens and preserving their individual liberties."

Another candidate, Jerry Oberholtzer, served as Snellville's mayor during a time of political fights and wild headlines, but he said that can't compare to what has gone on in the county government.

"In my years of service in Snellville, there was never a scandal, an ethics complaint, an investigation by law enforcement, grand jury testimony or indictments. Governance in Snellville was sometimes contentious but never dishonest," he said, adding that he wanted to beef up the county's revised ethics ordinance, putting executive sessions on video tape to be released when the law allows. "It is not enough to be dedicated and energetic. Recent scandals involving the County Commission demonstrate that a sound moral compass and strong character are equally necessary."

But for Beaudreau, the accusations mean little when both Korom and Oberholtzer face fines involving campaign disclosure infractions.

Tommy Hunter, the fourth candidate on the July 31 primary ballot, said he has learned how to help the government from working as a county staffer then in business dealings with Gwinnett offices. He wants to focus on the county's water source.

"I know firsthand the decision making process that goes on behind closed doors in our local government," he said. "From that I know where the lowest holes in the bucket are and have some pretty good ideas on how to plug them."

Commission District 3 spans much of southern and eastern Gwinnett.

With no Democrat on the ballot, the winner of the Republican primary will win the four-year term. If no candidate achieves a majority in the July 31 primary, the top two vote-getters will square off in a runoff Aug. 21.

Candidate Bios and Q&As

Mike Beaudreau (i)

• Party: Republican

• Age: 37

• Education: Bachelor of Arts from Clemson University

• Occupation: National Accounts Manager, Ricoh Corporation

• Political Experience: Gwinnett County Commissioner since 2005. Chairman of State of Georgia’s Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless

• Family: Wife Tegwen; 7-month-old daughter Mary Margaret

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

I am a small government conservative who has never voted to increase taxes. I believe county government should first provide essential services, including public safety and roads. I will work to promote economic growth, which provides the additional tax revenue needed for quality of life amenities like parks and libraries.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My top priority is to promote economic development and job growth. The recession and loss of jobs mean homeowners pay more than their share of the county’s taxes. By bringing in more companies with high paying jobs, we can broaden the tax base and make way for reduced taxes.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

My experience on the Board in my third and final term will be useful as we rebuild from the recession and from the loss of trust due to the actions of former commissioners. Unlike my competitors, I’ve made the difficult decisions that keep Gwinnett ahead of other area counties.

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Tommy Hunter

Tommy Hunter

• Party: Republican

• Age: 41

• Education: B.S. Civil Engineering Technology, Transportation Systems and Planning from Southern Tech, 1993

• Occupation: Civil Engineer

• Political Experience: Gwinnett County Water & Sewerage Authority, District 3, 2005 - 2009; Gwinnett County Planning Commission, District 4, 2011 - 2012

• Family: Wife Judith; Daughter Lauren, 15, Son Devin, 13

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

I believe government intrusion into people’s lives through taxes, fees and regulations is the biggest hindrance to a free market and a vibrant local economy. I will work hard to lessen or remove as many of these burdens as possible and prevent the implementation of new ones.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Diversification and protection of our water source. I believe we must take into consideration the recommendations of the 2008 Reservoir Study Committee and investigate new, supplemental sources of water to protect against drought and protect the long-term stability of our local economy.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I am a native and lifelong resident of the area and have watched our county grow up. I have worked inside the government, in appointed positions, and in running businesses. I have set policy, implemented policy, and have been directly affected by those policies.

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Mike Korom

Mike Korom

• Party: Republican

• Age: 53

• Education: Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Baldwin Wallace College, 1981

• Occupation: self-employed

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Wife Diane; sons Kyle, 27, Tyler, 21

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

I am an authentic social and economic conservative – a classic “Reagan Republican.” Traditional values and fiscal restraint have always driven my decision-making and leadership style. I will represent Gwinnett’s District 3 just as I have managed my business, family and friendships throughout the years — by drawing upon innate conservative ideals.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My primary mission is to transform the commission’s “Country Club Republican” culture into one of genuine middle-class conservatism. Gwinnett government has too often aimed to serve the county’s affluent, land barons and developers. I will tilt the commission back toward a mindset of serving citizens and preserving their individual liberties.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I have never before held public office in Gwinnett. I have never been deposed for being associated with crimes against Gwinnett’s citizens. I have never been formally reprimanded by the county for deliberate nepotism and back-room dealing. I have never exhibited municipal leadership so inept that it garnered statewide headlines.

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Jerry Oberholtzer

Jerry Oberholtzer

• Party: Republican

• Age: 53

• Education: Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Clemson University, 1981

• Occupation: Licensed Professional Civil Engineer

• Political Experience: Mayor of Snellville, 2003-2011; City Council Member in Snellville, 2000-2003

• Family: Wife Roxann; sons Jerry, 27, Matthew, 24, and Paul, 23; one grandson

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

I believe in conservative Republican values of pro-family, pro-business, small limited government and individual freedom. I have gained a great deal of personal satisfaction in making my community a better place to live. I have learned that public service, done with dedication and energy, will make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

The county commission still makes too many decisions “behind closed doors”. All county real estate purchases, legal discussions and personnel decisions are being made in executive sessions. I would require that all those sessions be video recorded and released to the public as soon as possible, but in no event longer than one year from the final deposition of the matter.

What sets you apart from your competitor(s)?

I am the only candidate with both executive and legislative experience. I served both as mayor and city council member in Snellville. I know how government works.

In my years of service in Snellville, there was never a scandal, an ethics complaint, an investigation by law enforcement, Grand Jury testimony or indictments. Governance in Snellville was sometimes contentious but never dishonest.

Comments

BufordGuy 1 year, 9 months ago

Mike Korom: "My primary mission is to transform the commission’s 'Country Club Republican' culture into one of genuine middle-class conservatism." What a crock. Not sure about the former mayor, but what I can gather, this is the only candidate to actually be part of a Country Club. I know Mr. Hunter and Mr. Beaudreau don't. And, "middle-class"? Bringing class warfare to this campaign too?

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

Since when has being a member of a country club been a determining factor in voting for an elected official? I don't see the logic there at all. However, the fact that Mr Beaudreau, who got Kevin Kennerly and Lorraine Green to go along with his idea to spend $400,000 of taxpayer money to build a golf cart underpass at Summit Chase Country Club ( a private club where Mr. Beaudreau plays) - that is troubling and tells what kind of politician he truly is.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, ever since the guy characterized everybody before him as "Country Club Republicans" is when. You want to talk about a train wreck, put that guy in there. He's District 3's Tim Sullivan.

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

I believe Mr. Korom's comment was about transforming the "country club republican culture" of the board of commissioners, and somehow you misconstrued it as a question of whether the candidates belonged to a country club. I think ANY of the three opponents would be a better choice than the current commissioner.

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Kent 1 year, 9 months ago

I totally agree. I can not figure out why TEA Party co-founder Debbie Dooley is supporting Beaudreau. She has actively demonstrated against TSPLOST, and did the same with Mike's garbage plan. I personally attended meetings where she was involved in each of these. This greatly diminishes my respect for the TEA party values.

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

It's similar to all the people who are vehemently against Obamacare and yet have a Beaudreau sign in their front yard. I asked myself that very same question too (about Dooley's endorsement of Beaudreau), because it makes no sense at all if she truly believes in the tea party values of less government. But then again the tea party is a bit unconventional as far as being formally organized, and individual leaders don't necessarily speak for the masses. Her endorsement hurts her credibility. For this race, I initially thought having 3 opponents would divide the opposition and allow Beaudreau to win, but now I think it is more realistic that Beaudreau will be forced into a runoff with one of the them because he is not going to get over 50% of the vote. If it goes to a runoff, then the vote will be more of a referendum about Beaudreau, and if the anti-Beaudreau vote can pool together, he could lose. I am in District 3 and hope we can vote him out.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 9 months ago

Agree with that, but no, I know exactly what he was meaning about the culture.

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rco1847 1 year, 9 months ago

After the Briscoe field incident Mike Beaudreau is out. He is so enamored with his own thinking that you can't tell him anything. When Commissioner Laseter pled guilty it meant the loss of a critical vote for commercializing Briscoe. Mr. Beaudreau suddenly says he was changing his vote because he "listened" to the people. What a crock !!! He change his vote to avoid being on the losing side and aligned with criminals. I said the best way to smuggle drugs was to own an airport - and at the time I didn't know about Commissioner Laseter's son. It's uncanny. The Republican Aristocracy has given us one crook after another with Tax and spend attitude.

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teelee 1 year, 9 months ago

RCO, I am sure drugs are already coming into Briscoe Field now. It would be harder once it was commercialized and more security was present, but it would still happen just like it does at Hartsfield-Jackson. Remember Gwinnett Is number one in home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, the Briscoce privatization, if it was done right could have jumped started our local economy and been a huge benefit. I would like to know what these candidates are going to do to get Gwinnett off that number one list. Being a good conservative alone doesn't fix the problem.

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm aginst any selfish, close-minded, anti-progressive "gentleman" even opposed to a fair consideration of a proper use of our airport that would have benefited the county as a whole.

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teelee 1 year, 9 months ago

Well said Miss Daisy, we could have had the best little regional airport in the country to compliment all of the other wonderful things Gwinnett has to offer like the number one ranked Arena venue that is PRIVATIZED. I have never seen such a debacle as I did the way the entire Briscoe Field proposal was handled. These are the worst financial times I have ever seen in Gwinnett County in my 34 years of residency and the airport had so much potential to change that. They really let us all down on that one.

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TOWG 1 year, 9 months ago

Miss Daisey is right. I attended an airshow at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport a month or so ago (it was great) and during the event the announcer would mention how many 10's of millions of dollars the airport contributed to DeKalb County schools, the general tax fund, and how many jobs their facilities supported. Why can't OUR airport do the same?

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teelee 1 year, 9 months ago

TOWG, If put to a vote, the majority of Gwinnett voters would have voted for the airport expansion. I believe it will still happen down the road when certain political types lose their political death grip on the good ole boy system. They sure were afraid of a referendum. I am tired of seeing businesses going under and houses being abandoned. If somebody has a better idea then please share it with us! They don't want a casino, they don't want commercial flights but they are ok with people being put out on the street.

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Dubbin 1 year, 9 months ago

You do know that PDK does NOT have commercial air service right?

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teelee 1 year, 9 months ago

I want to know what the candidates are going to do to get Gwinnett County off of the number one in home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies list in the state of Georgia???

The airport expansion had so much potential, but it was handled about as poor as it could have been. Over the years the commissioners have allowed concert Arena's, large shopping malls, baseball stadiums and professional sports teams to locate in Gwinnett, but now they are going to stonewall any effort to expand our airport to support these venues and businesses??

There needs to be an alternative to Hartsfield-Jackson in our region. Limited flights out of Briscoe will not ruin anybody's quality of life. Some of the prop planes are louder than the commercial jets. Remember every airplane taking off or landing would have been pumping money into our stagnant economy.

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Dubbin 1 year, 9 months ago

Who in their right mind is going to fly from ANYWHERE in the US to come see a Gwinnett Braves game, go to Mall of Georgia, a Georgia Force game? That's right - nobody! If you have to have an airport to make your community a success why is Alpharetta doing so well? The answer is good zoning, property maintenance, and business locating in a place where their employees WANT TO LIVE. Nobody wants to live next to an airport. If an airport is the answer to creating better communities please tell my why everything within 10 miles of Hartsfield looks like a war zone?

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Kent 1 year, 9 months ago

Mike really made some difficult decisions, such as making a motion with Kennerly to execute a $5 million land purchase from Brand Partners (which he received contributions from) , voted yes to many other shady land deals, his garbage plan (if this is such a fantastic plan then why is not he including it in his campaign fliers as a great accomplishment, or spending taxpayer money to build a tunnel under Rosebud road at a private golf course. If he truly believes taxes should be primarily for police, firemen, and roads then why has he promoted an unjustifiable increase in libraries and parks since he has been in office? (His website verifies this.) SPLOST only pays for the land and buildings for projects while the taxpayer is saddled with maintenance and staffing costs from now on when he votes for these projects. Why won't he expose his position on TSPLOST? He claims he can't because he is a BOC member. Just my opinion, but I would bet he is all for it. Other politicians are taking sides on this issue and openly expressing them.

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with you 100%. For him to proclaim "I am a small government conservative" is his most laughable statement yet when he led the government takeover of the trash pickup from the free market. And yes, why isn't that great accomplishment that cost the county taxpayers millions in legal fees, front and center on his campaign fliers? By the way, the audio from the debate in June where Mike says he can't comment on the TSPLOST is available at :http://dacula.patch.com/articles/audio-listen-to-the-district-3-candidates-answer-questions-at-forum

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

If Mike Beaudreau is the paragon of virtue that he pretends to be, why did he insist that a huge loophole be written in the new ethics ordinance that the board of commissioners adopted recently, so that no ethics complaints can be filed against a candidate running for office until AFTER the election? What a coincidence, he is the only commissioner running for reelection. Specifically, the ordinance states " However, no complaint may be filed against a candidate between the qualifying date for election of such candidate and the date of the candidate's general election or runoff election, if necessary. Complaints alleging violations during this period may be filed commencing upon the date immediately following the general election or runoff election, if necessary, and the six (6) month period shall run from that date." Just wait, if the sheeple vote him in again, we will get another nice "surprise" down the road like with the other disgraced commissioners.

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constructionbarbara 1 year, 9 months ago

And, Mr. Hunter was the project manager on SR20, that is nearly 8 months past the completion date.

I'm not real confident in his management skills. Too many things going on to be focused.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 9 months ago

Interesting you should bring that up. I just spoke Friday to a deputy of the head of GDOT who I happen to know through a mutual friend. Supposedly he has heard of Mr. Hunter before. He says that Mr. Hunter left the company building the SR 20 project in May of 2011--six months before the project's completion due date. He also stated that at that time the project was on schedule. He mentioned that the construction company had been suspended from GDOT's list of qualified contractors due to their inability to finish projects on time, a problem they experienced LONG before Mr. Hunter went to work there. Said they had one ongoing project that was at least three years behind. Sounds to me like he had things turned around in a company that had no organization. I'd be REAL confident in a guy like that and sounds like he has experience dealing with organizations without direction--just like the BOC.

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powder 1 year, 9 months ago

Anyone who thinks increasing commercial air traffic in Gwinnett is going to help the local economy isn't thinking the whole thing through. Yes, it would increase tax revenue going to the government, but it's not going to have the economic impact on the average citizen that you would like. Plus it's going to mean more flights of larger, louder planes flying over Gwinnett. I don't see that kind of noise pollution helping property values in the county.

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 9 months ago

There goes one-issue teepee again, beating that dead horse with a bag of cluelessness and fake facts.

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Dubbin 1 year, 9 months ago

It is going to be Beaudreau (whatever you think of him) against Oberholzer (riding around on Bannister/McKinney Segway scooters and supervising Joe Newton's web sites and phone calls) in a run off. In a repeat of the Bannister-Green election about 10% of the public will actually vote but 100% will complain. What dissapoints me most is I thought better of Oberholzer but now understand he's just another of the Bannister, McKinney, Heard cabal. Sad. Very sad. No matter who wins in District 3 the county gets another 4 years of ineptitude.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 9 months ago

If we end up with those two in a runoff, we've got some MAJOR problems in Gwinnett County. It would seriously be time for folks to look at an exit strategy if they live in District 3. Of course, here we ended up with Bannister's John Heard and that pitiful-excuse-for-a-candidate Tim Sullivan in our runoff.

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Kent 1 year, 9 months ago

I can not figure out why TEA Party co-founder Debbie Dooley is supporting Beaudreau. She has actively demonstrated against TSPLOST, and did the same with Mike's garbage plan. I personally attended meetings where she was involved in each of these. He has voted on the wrong side of the issues with the shady land deals, the stadium, and spending taxpayer dollars like it grows on trees. There seems to be much better candidates than Beaudreau given his record. It just does not add up. Is it just me who feels this way or what?

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Dmax 1 year, 9 months ago

Please take note....I am not sure of the exact cost passed on to the city of Snellville taxpayers every time Jerry Oberholzer had to take a potty break, but I am pretty sure that a Gwinnett County Police Officer escort to the potty is going to cost more than a City of Snellville Police Officer.

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teamgeorgia1 1 year, 9 months ago

I was thinking the same thing.. Is he going to ask for police escorts and protection everytime somebody disagree's with him as commissioner ? What a coward. Then again if he has a police escort he will not be as likely to do something illegal like the current BOC

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3catlady 1 year, 9 months ago

Am I the only one that thinks the present garbage system is not only a good one but a vast improvement over the previous one? And have the proponents of commercial traffic at Briscoe Field ever took a good look at the area surrounding Hartzfield-Jackson?

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nicholson 1 year, 9 months ago

On the garbage system, I don't know anyone in Gwinnett that likes the socialist system we now have. By the way, some of the same haulers that we are being forced to use, are offering residents in Fulton and Dekalb contracts for $10 a month. We are paying far more, and having to do so a year in advance. So thank you Mike Beaudreau, for making us pay more than residents in neighboring counties for the same service with the same haulers. With negotiating skills like that, I can't wait to see what our Gwinnett government can do for us next!

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