Election explosion: 9 qualify for Johns Creek council

2 empty seats draw competition

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – It’s amazing what an empty City Council seat does for the political pulse of the city, let alone two.

Nine Johns Creek citizens qualified last week for the May 20 special election to fill the seats resigned by former Councilmembers Bev Miller and Ivan Figueroa.

Elections in the past had been rather sleepy affairs for Johns Creek, but that all changed last summer. Long-simmering frustrations on the part of the 2013 City Council led five of the members to try to unseat Mayor Mike Bodker. It was a two-pronged attack.

The first salvo was the launching by council of the “investigation” into alleged misdeeds by the mayor. The second came with Miller’s resignation to run in a bid to unseat Bodker at the polls.

Both tries fizzled as two of the leading proponents of the investigation, Councilmembers Randall Johnson and Karen Richardson, were defeated at the polls in their own re-election bids by newcomers Lenny Zaprowski and Cori Davenport, respectively.

Miller also lost to Bodker. When Figueroa stepped down to move to another city, the result was the mayor is more entrenched than ever. But it appears to be the way the voters wanted it.

With two new councilmembers on board in January and two more to be seated after the special election, it will be a council short on experience.

True, Bodker has been the only mayor the city has ever had, but Councilmembers Kelly Stewart (first elected in 2010) and Brad Raffensperger (elected in 2013) only have three years on the job between them. After the special election, the city will have four “rookies” on council.

That means they will all have a quick immersion into city planning, transportation issues, land-use issues, zoning law, parks and recreation needs, public works and a highly educated and sometimes vociferous electorate.

None of the candidates have had much experience in government, although two have run for council and lost, so at least they have campaign experience. But no other candidates have been involved in elections.

With such a crowded field, the election season is likely to stretch into summer. If any candidate in either of the two races fails to get 50 percent of the vote plus one more, then there will be a runoff in August. With five candidates for Post 6 and four seeking Post 4, it is highly likely both seats will remain vacant throughout the summer with more jousting in the runoffs.

Coming off the most highly contested election in the city’s history last fall, it will be a test of stamina for the residents of Johns Creek, as it is likely there will be little let-up in the knocks on doors, political mailings, candidate forums and email buzz for the foreseeable future.

JC 03-13-14