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Hamrick gets 4 more on City Council after 42 years
Veteran councilman bests Harkrider in citys lone contested race
Bob Hamrick and his wife, Carolyn, are all smiles after Hamrick was re-elected Tuesday to the Gainesville City Council post he has held since 1969. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville City Councilman Robert "Bob" Hamrick will get a chance to add to the 42 years he has served in his post.

Hamrick deflected challenger Debra Harkrider at city polls Tuesday, winning 57 percent of the votes cast.

Harkrider, a local businesswoman and a registered nurse, received 649 votes from voters citywide.

The 83-year-old Hamrick has served on the Gainesville council since he was first elected in 1969.

During that time, Hamrick has served five two-year terms as Gainesville's mayor.

Harkrider was the first challenger Hamrick had had for the Ward 2 council seat since 2003. That year, he received 74 percent of the vote to defeat Tom Nichols.

At her election night party at Main Street Market on the downtown square Tuesday, Harkrider said she thought voters had been looking for new blood on the council.

"It's like a football player that's stayed beyond his time, and he's complacent and he's just kind of passing the ball when Gainesville still needs somebody to take the ball and run it down the field," Harkrider said. "No offense, but I don't think that Mr. Hamrick is able to run the ball down the field anymore."

Still, Harkrider called Hamrick a "lovely man" who had never "done anything wrong or bad."

"I hope that maybe with this challenge, maybe he'll start to think a little more openly and work a little bit harder for us to bring us into the next millennium," Harkrider said.

After the election results were clear, Harkrider received a message through a friend from radio host Al Gainey, who said he loved her style and urged her to run again. A tearful Harkrider could not say then whether she would, but it made her smile.

"I'm one of those girls who always got an ‘A' in school," she said. "I'm not used to losing."

Hamrick said his re-election was an endorsement of the council as a whole.

"Again, I promise my full attention to the various issues that come up and I always will vote with what's in the best interest of the total city," Hamrick said.

Surrounded by family, friends and fellow council members in a fifth floor room of the Independence Bank of Georgia building, Hamrick thanked his supporters for helping him through one more election Tuesday night.

He said the two hours between the closing of the city's polls and the posting of election results felt like 10.

"I thought this was going to be embarrassing - all the friends here and then wind up losing a race," Hamrick said after learning the results. "But then I look around the room and said ‘My gosh, with supporters like this, who could lose?' Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It's great."

He called Harkrider a "worthy opponent," and said he would get to work on unfinished business, including a redevelopment of the city's midtown and bringing more activity to Lake Lanier.

With no opponents, Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner (Ward 5) and Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras (Ward 3) were re-elected Tuesday.

Members of the Gainesville Board of Education Maria Calkins (Ward 2), Willie Mitchell (Ward 3) and Sammy Smith (Ward 5) were re-elected with no opposition.

Gainesville voters also approved a referendum for Sunday alcohol sales. The council is expected to take up the changes soon.