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8-14-04 Growth & Gwinnett

Many leaders try to hang on too long.  Persons who do little tend to stay below the radar but they are not remembered for much of anything.   Wayne Hill did much for Gwinnett.  It will be interesting to watch his successors manage the problems and challenges of such a large county.



August 14, 2004


Gwinnett Runoff Brings on Much Discussion


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


Wayne Hill has many leadership qualities and was personable.  He is a Gwinnett native and really loved his county.


I worked with him on regional (GA 316) State (ACCG Transportation Committee) and Local (Water Guarantee to Walton to supply Oconee in 1999).   I considered him a friend and developed much respect for him.


His loss is another indication that a strong leader will not be able to hold on indefinitely in a growing community.  He and I were talking in 2000 at a meeting of the ACCG Board of Managers.  I was describing my frustration with a couple of persons who always showed up at meetings in attack mode etc.  I described my reaction and  weariness with that kind of discourse.  His reply is something that stayed with me and was in the  back of mind when I announced my retirement.  Wayne said, “.. I feel that way sometime but it probably means you have been there too long.”


Many leaders try to hang on too long.  Weaker officials who do little tend to stay below the radar sometimes stay longer but they are not remembered for much of anything.   Wayne Hill did much for Gwinnett.  It will be interesting to watch his successors manage the problems and challenges of such a large county.


The Georgia Report



August 12, 2004

Surprise? What surprise?

By Tom Crawford

In his article on the Tuesday runoff election in Gwinnett County, a newspaper reporter described Commission Chairman Wayne Hill’s loss in the Republican primary to state Rep. Charlie Bannister as "a stunning election defeat."

Not that we mean to question the editorial judgment of our esteemed print colleagues, but there was nothing "stunning" or even particularly surprising about Hill’s defeat. You could see this one coming four years ago when Hill won a narrow victory in the GOP primary against a no-name candidate who had no money. It was obvious then that the "slow-growth" crowd in Gwinnett would probably knock Hill out of office if he tried to run for a fourth term in 2004. When Hill received only 39 percent of the vote in the July 20 primary election, the handwriting was on the wall.

Another of our print colleagues, Camie Young of the Gwinnett Daily Post, reported Thursday that Hill’s endorsements from politicians like Gov. Sonny Perdue may have contributed to his defeat.  "Rep. Charles Bannister and his supporters actually thanked Gov. Sonny Perdue for backing Hill during their election victory party Tuesday night," Young wrote.  "Bannister said Perdue was out of touch with local voters and, like the endorsement from former foe Marcia Neaton last month, some voters actually spun Bannister’s way."



The Gwinnett Daily Post



August 12, 2004


What led to chairman’s upset?


By Camie Young


SUWANEE — Wayne Hill loosened his tie before 8 p.m. election day, as early returns showed his 12 years of county service would come to an end in January.

Recognized nationwide for his guidance of one of the fastest growing counties in the country, Hill, who made history when he won his third term, couldn’t survive a primary runoff for his fourth term.

Hill was resigned and expectant Tuesday night, even as the family and friends gathered at his Suwanee home held out hope that the polls would turn in his favor.

While outsiders wonder what happened that caused Hill’s grasp on Gwinnett County to slip away, many here say the results were inevitable.

“Frankly, he may have overstayed his welcome,” political scientist Adam Stone said.
“Life is about change,” former Commissioner Judy Waters said.
“It’s hard to win a fourth term on anything,” District 4 Commissioner Kevin Kenerly agreed.


“He has been in there for 12 years,” Elections Supervisor Lynn Ledford said. “I guess people thought regardless of whether he’s good, bad or indifferent, that’s long enough for a politician.”

The low voter turnout played a role in Tuesday’s election, with fewer than 2,000 votes separating the candidates………..

“We’re a victim of our own success,” he said, explaining that the county’s high quality of life spurred people to move here, which caused crowding in schools and on the roads……..

“I appreciate all his work for the greenspace, but it seems like the growth has been out of control,” she said as she watched her daughter’s softball practice at George Pierce Park in Suwanee.

Another team mom, Shelby Greene, said the decision could change Gwinnett.
“(Hill’s loss) could have the potential to hurt Gwinnett because he had the ear of a lot of people,” Greene said of Hill’s ties to government leaders throughout Georgia. “He could have a lot of power throughout the state, or, at the same time, we need some fresh blood.”

“Change is always good,” Levitz added.
Neither Levitz nor Greene expect the changing of the guard to mean major changes in the county.
Kevin Kenerly doesn’t expect that either. With 10 years on the board, Kenerly will become the senior member of the commission in January.

“I still haven’t seen a bit of difference in Gwinnett County,” Kenerly said of changes in the board over the years.

“It’s important to not have too drastic of a change, but I’m always looking for options,” he continued. “It’s about adapting to who you are working with to get the most done for the citizens.”

Stone said the message from voters Tuesday night is that the current paradigm isn’t working.
People are angry with developers, growth, traffic, that nexus. This was a no vote on the incumbents,” he said. “They were voting against Wayne Hill and Charles Bannister got the benefit.”

The linchpin is growth, Stone said.
But growth wasn’t the only issue.

Gwinnett resident Leo Roy said he voted against Hill partly because of the smoking ban Hill supported late last year.

“I would like to point out that Wayne Hill’s defeat was not only attributed to his policies of uncontrolled growth,” Roy said. “I turned against him when he was determined to impose a countywide smoking ban trampling on my rights. I’m sure other voters also felt the same way, and I believe that this issue contributed to his margin of loss.”……..

“If it takes you an hour to get to greenspace 10 miles away, what’s the point?” she said, while eating lunch with her husband Steve at A&J’s Tasty Pig in Snellville. “A lot has changed in the county in 12 years.”…………

The Gwinnett Daily Post




August 11, 2004


Bannister over Hill

By Sheri Kasprzak

LAWRENCEVILLE — Tuesday’s primary runoffs settled unresolved political battles throughout the state and ushered in new voices to Gwinnett’s political arena.

Charles Bannister’s victory will end Wayne Hill’s 12-year run as Gwinnett’s chairman, ………..

Hill, Gwinnett’s chairman for 12 years, was edged out of office in Tuesday night’s runoff by state Rep. Bannister. Bannister received 52.5 percent of the vote, or 18,481 votes, leaving Hill with 47.5 percent.

Hill received only 39 percent of the vote during the July 20 Republican primary, forcing him into a runoff with Bannister. Third-place winner Marcia Neaton demanded a recount that later pushed her out of the runoff.

“I thank the voters of Gwinnett that came through for me,” Bannister said Tuesday night. Hill took his loss in stride. “It’s a loss but it may be a gain,” Hill said, implying his retirement from political life. “I’m not shocked. I was prepared to win or lose.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Published on: 08/11/04


Bannister defeats Hill in Gwinnett

Under Wayne Hill, Gwinnett County was one of the fastest-growing counties in America.

It grew from a largely rural bedroom county to an independent economic center with its own industry and political identity.

But in the end, Hill, the county commission chairman who was once seen as politically invincible, was felled by the growth he helped bring to the county.

On Tuesday night, as the ballots weighed against him in his runoff election battle with Charles Bannister, Hill offered a candid assessment of what the voters were saying: "I think they said I've been here long enough."

Bannister, 65, is an 18-year state legislator and former Lilburn mayor. During the campaign he accused Hill of overdeveloping the county, saying Gwinnett "is being developed without regard for the people who already live here."

During Hill's 12 years as head of the county commission, Gwinnett County added 300,000 people. Today, about 700,000 people live in the county.

More people meant more cars, and that meant more traffic, Hill's critics pointed out……..

Instead, thanks to tight money management and a booming economy, Gwinnett County became one of the few counties in the nation to earn a top AAA bond rating. But having a high profile carries risks. Hill was cast by some as the "sultan of sprawl," a label he hates……….

A free-market Republican, Hill believed growth was necessary to ensure economic vitality. He resisted efforts to impose impact fees and to slow development, even in areas where schools became overcrowded…….

Bannister tried to paint Hill as slavishly devoted to growth and blind to problems in older parts of the county.

Hill tried to cast Bannister as a mediocre legislator who couldn't be trusted with a county as large and economically complex as Gwinnett.

      Staff writer Duane Stanford contributed to this article.