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Norcross council has Gwinnett's only contested city races

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NORCROSS -- A pair of challengers with very different backgrounds will take on incumbent Norcross city councilmen Tuesday, marking Gwinnett's only contested municipal elections.

Arlene Beckles, an IT project manager and political newcomer, is challenging incumbent David McLeroy for one Norcross city council seat. In the other contested seat, incumbent Ross Kaul is pitted against Keith Shewbert, a coffee shop owner and former councilman.

Beckles, 49, described herself as nonpartisan and said her political philosophy is based on the facts that "all citizens have the right to be represented fairly and elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions." Beckles said, if elected, she will show fiscal responsibility and integrity.

Her main ambition would be stronger code enforcement, she said.

"We have made some progress but there is still some more work to be done, especially along the lines of process improvement as it relates to how we use our resources and engage others," said Beckles, who moved to Norcross in 2003.

Her opponent has been a Norcross city councilman since 2002.

McLeroy, a 50-year-old Norcross High School graduate, is the owner of a construction company. Not one to waste words, he said his political philosophy is "just common sense decisions and understanding what the people want."

If re-elected, McLeroy said his main goal would be the continued redevelopment of Buford Highway.

In the other city council race in Norcross, Republican challenger Keith Shewbert -- the owner of 45 South Cafe in Norcross and Chocolate Perks Cafe in Duluth -- will look to reclaim the role he held from 2006 to 2008.

Shewbert, 53, said he decided to run for office again because there was "not enough competition for council seats," which he said manifested itself in the form of not enough new ideas brought up from the citizenry.

He described his political philosophy along similar lines: "I believe in a smaller and more efficient government closer to the people. We want to have more citizen-driven input, more input from citizens in setting the vision for the community."

Shewbert said his top goal would be the economic development of east Norcross.

Kaul, the incumbent who considers himself non-partisan, is retired from the metals business and has been on the Norcross citycouncil for two consecutive terms.

He boasted of the city's success in creating jobs during that time period.

"I am very tied up with the economic development of Norcross, and we've created thousands of jobs over the last four years just in Norcross," Kaul, a father of seven, said. "And I think we've added something like 260 businesses in our city. We've just gone nuts. And I want to keep that going."

Kaul said his political philosophy is to "follow the money first," and spoke about the city's nine months of reserve funds.

"There's not another town in Gwinnett that can say that," he said.

Candidate bios and questions

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David McLeroy

David McLeroy (i)

Age: 50

Political Party: Republican

Education: Associates degree in business administration, DeKalb Community College; graduate of Norcross High School

Occupation: Owner of construction company

Political Experience: Norcross city councilman, 2002-present

Family: Wife, Michele; twin daughters Brittany and Nicole, 18

• What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office: My political philosophy is just common sense decisions and understanding what the people want, and to make sure that the will of the people is carried out. We have a lot of public officials who spend their time creating a lot of ordinances.

• Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle: The redevelopment of Buford Highway in the Norcross area.

• What sets you apart from your competitor: Experience on the city council and experience running my own business.

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Arlene Beckles

Arlene Beckles

Age: 49

Political Party: Non-partisan

Education: Current Ph.D. student, Northcentral University; Master of science in project management, Keller Graduate School of Management; Bachelor of science in computer sciences and management, City University of New York

Occupation: IT project manager with Turner Broadcasting System

Political Experience: None

Family: Single mother by choice of daughter Nyasia, 11

• What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office: All citizens have the right to be represented fairly and elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions. That said, I will treat everyone like I want to be treated, and will show sound fiscal responsibility and integrity when it comes to doing the work of the citizens.

• Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle: Code enforcement is one issue that I will address both from a business and residential aspect. We have made some progress but there is still some more work to be done, especially along the lines of process improvement as it relates to how we use our resources and engage others.

• What sets you apart from your competitor: As an engaged citizen with a passion for serving, I am willing to listen to all citizens, offer opportunities for them to bring new ideas to the able and be part of the solution when it comes to what is best for our community and I am dedicated to Norcross.

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Ross Kaul

Ross Kaul (i)

Age: 64

Political Party: Non-partisan

Education: A.D. in marketing, NCTC in Columbus, Ohio

Occupation: Retired from metals business

Political Experience: Been on city council for two terms

Family: Wife Michelle; seven children; 12 grandchildren

• What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office: I follow the money first. My job is to keep the lights on, the streets clean and make sure we’re safe ... The city of Norcross has nine months reserve funds. There’s not another town in Gwinnett that can say that.

• Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle: I want to see connectivity and redevelopment. I am very tied up with the economic development or Norcross, and we’ve created thousands of jobs over the last four years just in Norcross. And I think we’ve added something like 260 businesses in our city. We’ve just gone nuts. And I want to keep that going.

• What sets you apart from your competitor: Experience. I’m my own businessman; when I retired I headed up over $75 million in sales. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve done it all. I’m just experienced. And my record shows it.

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Keith Shewbert

Keith Shewbert

Age: 53

Political Party: Republican

Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science from North Georgia College and State University; MBA from University of Phoenix

Occupation: Coffee shop owner

Political Experience: Norcross city councilman 2006-08

Family: Wife Jeanette

• What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office: I believe in a smaller and more efficient government closer to the people. We want to have more citizen-driven input, more input from citizens in setting the vision for the community.

• Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle: The economic development of east Norcross (the area between Buford Highway and Interstate 85).

• What sets you apart from your competitor: I think it’s the philosophy of government, of wanting the government to be less involved and to get out of the people’s way, to take care of the core responsibilities of government.