Election 2017: Public safety, growth are key issues in Braselton

One issue the two candidates running for Braselton Town Council’s District 4 seat heartily agree on is public safety.

“There’s not a lot of patrol at night,” said Robert Clark. “And we’ve had a lot of issues with theft of trucks … and a lot of kids have been vandalizing.

“I’m definitely for more cops and (a bigger) budget for the police station. If we can tax some of these bigger companies coming in, it’ll really help out and maybe we can spend that (extra revenue) toward patrols and safety.”

Hardy Johnson said that “when you have growth, crimes rates naturally increase, and we want to create an environment in Braselton where you can live, work and play.

“It’s important to support the police department. They need adequate training, adequate equipment (and) adequate staffing levels.”

Braselton Town Council, District 4

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

Where to vote: Jackson County Elections and Voter Registration Office, 441 Gordon St., Jefferson, Oct. 16-Nov. 3; Braselton Police and Municipal Building, 5040 Ga. 53, Oct. 30-Nov. 3 and Nov. 7

Clark and Johnson are vying for the seat being vacated by Rhonda Stites in the Nov. 7 election.

Both are political newcomers, although Johnson has been involved in the Downtown Development Authority. He also has worked with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton’s foundation.

“I felt (the open seat) was an opportunity to continue my civic involvement,” said Johnson, 71, a retired businessman.

“I think it’s critical at this time that we have mature, responsible leadership that has experienced life. I know the pressures young families are under today … and how important home values are. We need decisions made in Braselton that will enhance property values of our citizens.”

He added that he believes it’s key to adhere to local ordinances now in place.

“Growth and development should be reasonable, responsible and orderly,” Johnson said.

Clark, 34, owner of Clark’s Heating and Air, sees himself as a grassroots candidate.

“I'm doing this because I love this town,” he said. “I’m not a politician. I’m a dad. I’m a volunteer. I’m a small business owner. I’m your neighbor.

“I believe I can help make a positive change in Braselton, the place I'm proud to call my home and where I raise my family. I want Braselton to continue to grow and thrive like the city it can be.”

He said the main reason he’s running is the council is dominated by Chateau Elan residents.

“It’s more about the community, not just one neighborhood,” Clark said. “There are dozens of neighborhoods (in Braselton), and I don’t think we’re getting our voice (heard).”

Robert Clark

Age: 34

Education: North Gwinnett High School

Occupation: Owner of Clark’s Heating and Air

Political experience: First run for office

Hardy Johnson

Age: 71

Education: Master’s degree in business administration, Georgia State University

Occupation: Retired businessman

Political experience: First run for office

Growth is a major issue for Braselton, with retail and restaurants spring up on both the Spout Springs Road and Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 sides of town. Much of that lies in South Hall and at the Hall-Gwinnett border.

It’s creating a big transportation issue, with plans in the works to eventually widen Ga. 211, which runs to Interstate 85.

“It’s a huge issue for us,” Clark said. “Around 5 p.m., our neighborhood gets blocked (by cars).”

Infrastructure is needed, Johnson said.

“We see every day an increase in traffic congestion, and it’s more than just widening Ga. 211,” he said. “... We need to promote an expansion of I-85 through Braselton and (as far north) to South Carolina as possible.”

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