Braselton voters will decide between an incumbent councilman and a civic-minded lawyer as the town’s first new mayor in a decade.
With Bill Orr, first elected in 2009, opting not to seek re-election this year, District 4 Councilman Hardy Johnson and Kurt Ward decided to seek the post in the town, which straddles Hall, Gwinnett, Barrow and Jackson counties.
The election is Nov. 2, with advance in-person voting starting Oct. 12. More information is available in The Times 2021 voter guide.
“I have unique experience, but I also have the desire and the time to be involved in this leadership role,” Johnson said.
Political experience: served as District 4 councilman
Occupation: retired after 47 years in construction materials business
Top issues: public safety, no property taxes, Ga. 211 widening
Ward said, “You can think on the national scale and look on the statewide scale, but if you really want to get down to how the dirt gets managed in your town, you’ve got to get involved in local politics.”
For Ward, a lawyer specializing in estate planning, litigation and other areas, running for office followed his own neighborhood push for Braselton to follow its own comprehensive land-use plans.
He said development off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 highlights the plan not being followed. The area was supposed to be about commercial areas around open spaces, and “instead, we just have fast-food joints.”
Political experience: first run for office
Occupation: lawyer in estate planning, litigation and general counsel
Top issues: appropriate land uses in different areas of town
Ward said he went door to door with his concerns and “built a network of friends.”
Johnson retired after 47 years in the construction materials business, then began building his Braselton resume. He has been involved with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation, Boy Scouts and Braselton Downtown Development Authority.
“I believe I have the assets that are important whenever you assume a leadership role, to be successful, and experience to see the challenges … and to understand the opportunities that exist,” he said.
“We’re an attractive, appealing community with great promise … and it takes experience to see what opportunities exist and how you can prevent the perils from coming in and ruining a good situation.”
A major priority for Johnson is shoring up public safety, including increasing the number of police officers by 50% and “ensuring officers have the tools and training they need to keep us safe.”
For Ward, priorities vary on the area of town.
In west Braselton, which is largely in Hall County, a key need is open space and a key concern is the large number of rental properties in place or planned.
By contrast, east Braselton’s vision “is to stay agricultural, peaceful and gain easy LifePath access to other local destinations,” Ward says on his campaign website.
LifePath is a system of 10-foot-wide trails that allows pedestrians, golf cart drivers and bicyclists to travel between businesses and neighborhoods.