Lilburn voters will have to choose a new mayor and councilman in a special election this year after Mayor Johnny Crist has turned in his resignation to run for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly, city officials announced Tuesday.
Crist confirmed he is running as a “conservative Republican” for the Georgia House of Representatives District 108 seat, prompting him to step down, effective later this spring. The seat is held by Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, who was one of several Democrats who flipped seats in Gwinnett’s legislative delegation in the 2018 elections.
The seat’s former occupant, former state Rep. Clay Cox, had previously announced plans to run for the seat again as a Republican, but backed out at Thanksgiving. Crist said people in the community began urging him to run after Cox announced his decision to back out of the race.
“I had just been re-elected (as mayor), and I was so focused on just leading the city for another four year and then when Clay decided not to run, I started getting calls,” Crist said. “There was enough affirmation that my wife and I began to take it seriously, and we said ‘We better pray through this and think about it and come to a decision,’ which took us awhile and said ‘Yes, we’ll do it.’
“So it was not my prompting. I was clearly on another path to just lead our lovely city and life happened.”
Crist’s resignation has, in turn, created a domino effect, leading to Councilman Tim Dunn, who has been the mayor pro tem, stepping down from his council seat so he can run for mayor. Dunn’s and Crist’s resignations will be effective March 1.
The special election to fill the mayor’s seat and Dunn’s Post 4 council seat will be held May 19.
“I commend Mayor Crist for his leadership and vision during his tenure. We wish him well with future plans,” Dunn said. “I will take this opportunity to seek election as Lilburn’s mayor, to continue the realization of dreams we have formed together with Lilburn staff over the last decade.”
Councilman S. Scott Batterton was picked to be the council’s new mayor pro tem for 2020 earlier this week.
Crist has been Lilburn’s mayor in 2012 and the city has undertaken several projects since then, including: the joint City Hall-Library building in partnership with Gwinnett County; renovations at Lilburn’s city park; the promotion of arts in the city; and the approval of new downtown housing.
The city is also preparing to move its police headquarters and municipal court to a new location and long-term plans are in place to eventually add storefront space along Main Street.
City officials said Crist played a key role in the Lilburn Arts Alliance’s formation and “helped bring the award-winning Lilburn Tunnel Bridge Mural to downtown Lilburn.”
Crist said there are several issues that will be close to him as a legislator, if he’s elected, including supporting pro-life and pro-second amendment measures and tackling the issues of human trafficking and transportation issues.
He also said he would bring a background in city government and an understanding of what cities need to the General Assembly.
“A lot of the decisions that are made downtown, they are not reflective of the people who have real intimate details on how cities run, and the needs of cities,” Crist said. “Eighty-five percent of all Georgians live in a city. We’re really attached to our cities and so I bring that perspective.”
Crist has already launched a campaign website, www.johnnycristforgeorgia.com.