JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Johns Creek elections hardly raised a ripple through the city, but the 2013 elections have had just about everything.
Perhaps the two most popular councilmembers – Mayor Mike Bodker and former Councilwoman Bev Miller – squared off in an intense battle, while two newcomers took on longtime incumbents Randall Jackson and Karen Richardson.
Dr. Lenny Zaprowski handily defeated Johnson with nearly 68 percent of the vote. Johnson, who was the most vocal critic of Bodker during the campaign, apparently suffered the most severe backlash.
Meanwhile, Zaprowski’s folksy, “Oh shucks, I’m just glad to be here” campaign style drew voters to him.
Richardson hung on in the only three-way race to force a runoff election in three weeks scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Five members of the City Council voted to initiate an investigation of the mayor for alleged improprieties, but the move has proved to be hugely unpopular with voters and has almost completely backfired.
If Richardson can salvage the runoff, she will be the only incumbent returning besides the mayor and Councilwoman Kelly Stewart, who ran unopposed.
Election night at the Rivermont Country Club, Stewart said the election issues were clear-cut.
“Johns Creek has spoken loudly. And what they said was they wanted to be represented and not ruled,” Stewart said.
Zaprowski is new to politics, but won by the largest margin. He said he was humbled to have been chosen by his neighbors.
“What we want to do now is bring unity and progress to the city,” Zaprowski said. “It’s a big honor to be chosen for this.”
Bodker spoke after the returns were in. He told his supporters that he was thankful for their support.
“You guys really lifted us up. And this city came out,” Bodker said. “It’s been an interesting race. I’ve never heard so much about my life – but you all have.”
Bodker also wanted to thank the many elected officials who stuck by him during the campaign when the cloud of the investigation hung over him.
“At a time like that, the prudent politician would keep clear of someone who could hurt his reputation by association. I had many friends who did not,” Bodker said.
And indeed, many of them were at campaign headquarters that night. Sens. Brandon Beach and John Albers, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann made personal appearances of support.
Also supporting Bodker, but not there at campaign night, were Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and state Rep. Lynne Riley.
“I tried to run a campaign with composure and grace. I had the opportunity to hear what the community wants. It is time for the negativity to end and the healing to begin,” he said.
Bodker pledged to focus on what is best for Johns Creek, to improve the city’s quality of life. This means resurfacing roads, improving the city’s parks and growing the city’s business community.
The centerpiece for all of this will be a new city center.
“I don’t know what it will look like or where it will be. But it will be a place of entertainment and excitement for the citizens to gather as well as attract visitors from other cities,” Bodker said.
“It will be a unique statement of what makes our city great.”
Hausmann said the atmosphere that evening was rejuvenating after all the negativity of the campaign.
“It reminds me of when this city started seven years ago,” she said. “I think the people have spoken. They did not like what’s happened the last six to eight months.
Jones echoed those feelings. She said she was in this very room at Rivermont Country Club helping to draw the lines for a new city, and was now seeing a renewal of that city.
“There was a clear choice in this election, and the city has made it,” Jones said.