Voters in Norcross and Grayson decided to keep their mayors Tuesday after months of campaigning ended at the ballot box.
Norcross Mayor Craig Newton defeated Councilman Chuck Paul in Norcross’ mayoral race by a margin of 696 votes to 442 votes. Over in Grayson, Mayor Allison Wilkerson defeated Joseph Runyon in that city’s mayoral race.
Norcross and Grayson had the only contested mayoral races in Gwinnett County, with incumbents in each city facing a challenger.
In Norcross, voters turned out in higher numbers than usual for election day with a contested mayoral race, two open and contested city council races and a referendum on extending the terms of office for the mayor and council from two years to four years on the ballot.
After about two hours of waiting for results, Newton addressed supporters at Chase’s Grille and Wings in downtown Norcross.
“We won,” he said, prompting ecstatic cheers from the supporters.
Newton had run on an argument that the city needed stability in city government with some projects still underway, including a Buford Highway corridor study. Meanwhile, Paul — who just joined the city council two years ago — had argued that a change in leadership was needed in city hall to move the city forward.
After his victory, Newton said he was turning his attention to working for the residents of Norcross, and working on improving the Buford Highway corridor.
“During an election, you pause and you focus on that,” Newton said. “Now we get back to the business of running the city and moving the people’s agenda forward, and we have two years to do that.”
Both candidates for mayor, along with several candidates for City Council, stood along Jones Street near City Hall and waved to voters in a last effort to turn out supporters as the final hours of voting wound down Tuesday.
But while voters chose to stick with Newton as their mayor, they also made a big change to the offices of mayor and City Council. A referendum to change the length of terms for mayor and councilman from two years to four years passed by a margin of 724-405.
Wilkerson defeats Runyon In Grayson, Mayor Allison Wilkerson was re-elected for her fourth term. She defeated her challenger Joseph Runyon, an insurance business owner, 472 votes to 73.
Wilkerson remarked that it was one of the largest turnouts for a municipal election in Grayson.
“I think that it was a great vote of confidence, and I’m very excited that I was able to be able to pull those numbers and get the votes,” Wilkerson said.
Prior to the election Wilkerson said she has tried to do what’s best for the city as mayor without raising the city’s millage rate and by offering free family events, as well as free trash, recycling, yard debris and large item pick-up to residents.
In her next two-year mayoral term, she said bringing more businesses to Grayson will help improve traffic conditions by bringing the city closer to the work, live and play model. She pointed to the recent opening of the Grayson Railyard — a private development with retail, office space and residential lofts — as a sign the city is moving toward centralized development.
“Hopefully more people will have the option not to leave town and not have to drive to Athens or Snellville to go to work,” she said.
Wilkerson said important there is property popping up for sale where the city is looking to develop its downtown. She expects the city will be looking at those properties and planning for new projects. She said the Railyard model of private development could be replicable for those projects.
“I think that’s the trend we’re holding onto and we’re finding the next piece of that puzzle,” Wilkerson said.