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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: A year in review of 2013 politics in Gwinnett

Don  Balfour

Don Balfour

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David Shafer

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Ray Nunley

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Louise Radlof

This year in Gwinnett politics had its ups and downs, not just at the ballot box.

Gwinnett’s tale of corruption continued with a new chapter. This time, though, the politician won out, with a jury last week finding Sen. Don Balfour not guilty on all charges related to false expense reports.

The case moved quickly, in time for Balfour to return to the General Assembly less than two months after he was indicted in the case, which has tainted much of 2012 and 2013.

But former Planning Commissioner Mark Gary is going to prison, after he was sentenced to two years in prison this year for bribing former Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, who began her own prison sentence in late 2012.

In January, several Gwinnett leaders got their due.

Longtime lawmaker David Shafer was elevated to become the Senate president pro tem.

That made the Duluth senator the No. 2 person in charge in the Senate behind the lieutenant governor.

And after the retirement of a couple of judges and some promotions, the three women took the top judgeships in the county for the first time.

Melodie Snell Conner was named chief Superior Court judge, Pam South was tapped as the chief State Court Judge and Kristina Blum was picked as chief Magistrate Court judge.

This year, the county mourned a mayor, with the passing of Ray Nunley of Loganville.

Battling lung cancer, Nunley resigned from office in March and died in April, at the age of 69.

In both a summer special election and in November’s general election, Dan Curry was elected to take over at the helm of the city.

Loganville also had something to celebrate in 2013, the summer homecoming of Councilman Rey Martinez, who had participated in council meetings via telephone while being deployed in the Middle East for the U.S. Navy Reserves.

And Gwinnett also has celebrated the recovery of one of its longest-serving public servants.

Louise Radloff, who has served on the school board for 40 years and on the board of health for decades, gave us a scare when she fell off a loading deck in September while helping pick up bread for a food co-op.

Radloff, 78, broke her neck in the fall, but she was back on her feet quickly, missing only one Board of Education meeting — the first regular session she had missed during her 40-year tenure, although she participated by phone.

Of course, with next year’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races already reaching fever pitches, the county made plenty of headlines, from visits from the politicians to the domino effect of candidates, leading to the special election this fall that made Chuck Efstration Gwinnett’s newest legislator.

Those races — not to mention Balfour’s return to the ballot, a couple of county commissioners and a spate of local offices — are sure to bring more intrigue in 2014.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via email at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.

For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.