JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Head and shoulders, Johns Creek’s first real political battle was the political campaign for 2013 City Council elections. There was not much it did not have.
Heretofore, council races scarcely raised an eyebrow in the city. Truth be told, most residents couldn’t name all seven councilmembers. But the one name everyone knows is that of Mayor Mike Bodker. There isn’t a ribbon that gets cut, a school that remains unvisited or a community event that the ubiquitous mayor seems to miss.
The term most people use to describe him is “face of the city.” He was the most visible spokesperson for the drive to cityhood and the only mayor in the city’s short history.
But what most people did not see was the turmoil that simmered beneath the surface with his council. Councilmembers Bev Miller, Randall Johnson, Karen Richardson, Ivan Figueroa and Brad Raffensperger had been waging a campaign to rein in what they said was a mayor who was out of control. Only Councilwoman Kelly Stewart stood apart in her support of Bodker.
There had been flashes of the discord, most noticeably when the city charter was amended to curtail the mayor’s powers. Chief among those changes was a clause that said the mayor must “represent the will of the council.”
That clause was a signal to the mayor to curtail actions that they did not condone or support. This charter amendment would also give the council the power to remove the mayor by a super majority vote of five votes.
But ultimately, they chose another method to try to unseat Bodker. It fell like a bombshell in a June council meeting when the five members announced – Stewart was not present, nor would she support – an investigation of certain “allegations” of wrongdoing by Bodker.
Decatur attorney Robert Wilson was hired to begin the investigation of what were still undisclosed allegations. Later, the cost of the investigation would become as big an issue as the investigation itself.
Then just as election qualifying was approaching, Miller announced her resignation from council to challenge Bodker for mayor. Bodker supporters said the reason for the investigation was now clear, and that it was to sabotage his bid for a third term.
Miller said that was not the case, but critics harped that the investigation, the resignation to oppose the mayor and the “interim report” released just days before the election all pointed to careful planning.
In the end, it backfired on the five members of council who sought to bring Bodker down.
The mayor and newcomers Lenny Zaprowski and Cori Davenport all won handily in a race where the only real issue was Bodker’s character.
But it put the spotlight on Johns Creek politics more brilliantly than ever before. It is not likely that future city elections will come and go unremarked as