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Election 2017: Buford commission race pits never-challenged incumbent against political first-timer

UPDATE: Gary A. Ingram expelled from ballot in Nov. 7 election

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After 25 years of unopposed races, Buford City Commissioner Chris Burge is facing his first challenger in the Nov. 7 election — political newcomer Gary A. Ingram.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” said Ingram, a truck driver and part-time heavy equipment operator. “I just wanted to make a difference.”

Burge, who has seen much growth in the town during his tenure, said, “I just like to keep things pretty much on keel like we have had them.”

He said his decision to run again was based on the same reason he has kept running through the years.

“I love my town,” said Burge, whose family has been in Buford since the 1800s.

Ingram, also with longtime ties to Buford, said he worries that a sort of “gentrification” is happening in Buford, which is in Gwinnett and Hall counties.

Buford City Commission

When: Early voting begins Oct. 16; Election Day is Nov. 7.

Where to vote: Buford City Hall, 2300 Buford Highway

“We’ve got a lot of construction and subdivisions going on around here and nobody are really representing the older people of Buford,” he said. “Property values are going sky high, and the taxes are going to go up too.”

Development has created a horseshoe around older and low-income communities, “squeezing the older people out (while Buford) just goes on growing like a big giant,” Ingram said.

Burge said city officials are trying to balance residential, commercial and industrial growth.

“We’ve done a good job keeping it balanced,” said the Buford businessman. “Residential has taken off, as everybody is trying to get inside the city limits to get their kids in (Buford) schools.”

Chris Burge

Age: 57

Education: Buford High School, Lanier Technical College

Occupation: Owner of Buford Brake & Lube

Political experience: In 25th year on the Buford City Commission

Gary A. Ingram

Age: 53

Education: Private investigation certification

Occupation: Truck driver, part-time heavy equipment operator

Political experience: First run for office

Overall, governing the city is quite the chore, Burge added, and it’s work that requires financial savvy, among other skills.

Burge cited a gas system that serves 35,000-plus customers and other city utilities, plus the ever-growing school system, as responsibilities.

Buford is building a new high school off Buford Highway/Ga. 13. Also, in September, the Buford Board of Commissioners voted to authorize the city manager and city attorney to negotiate the purchase of 16.43 acres at 995 Gainesville Highway on the South Hall side of Buford.

“The city is purchasing the property as a possible location for a future Buford elementary school,” City Manager Bryan Kerlin wrote in an email to The Times. “This is part of a long-range planning effort.”

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