I went into the candidate forum for the Gwinnett County Commission District 3 on March 1 with a very open mind. I told myself I was going to listen to what each of the three candidates had to say and then, based on their answers, I would start to form an opinion of who I thought was the most qualified for the position.
I am well-acquainted with only one of the candidates, the incumbent, Mike Beaudreau. I worked with Commissioner Beaudreau on Karen Handel’s gubernatorial campaign several years ago as well as on County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash’s campaign in 2011. I am familiar with former Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer only by reputation and in passing and I had just met the third candidate Mike Korom that evening prior to the start of the forum.
Given the fact that a local opposition group, Citizens for a Better Gwinnett, was at the meeting in force and that two of the three candidates shared the sentiments of that group I was aware that the tone of the forum was going to be overshadowed sooner or later by the issue of privatizing and commercializing the airport at Briscoe Field.
As it turns out the airport issue, though it did rear its ugly head eventually and the candidates and audience did spar over the details of the possible noise factor, the costs to the county if said expansion failed and when the proposals would be available, was not one that affected my judgment of the candidates fitness for the job of commissioner. What turned the tide of my opinion were some much more basic characteristics of the three candidates.
It became clear to me early on in the forum, after Oberholtzer, Korom and Commissioner Beaudreau introduced themselves, gave their reasons for running and their qualifications, that this wasn’t going to be as hard of a decision as I had thought.
Though I admire and respect a lot of what Jerry Oberholtzer did as Mayor of Snellville, and I know he has many fans in his town, I have to say that I was more than taken aback by the absolutely cavalier attitude he possessed at last Thursday’s forum.
Oberholtzer apparently thought humor was the best angle from which to draw support for his candidacy. His very first words to the crowd were, “I guess I am Larry the Cable guy on this panel.” From there on, from his opening remarks to his stance on the airport, to critiquing his opponents records and to jabs at Commissioner Beaudreau over the grand jury investigation into the now infamous land deals, he chuckled, guffawed, joked, kidded and generally laughed his way through what are, I am sure, serious issues to most Gwinnett citizens, most especially to those willing to attend a community event on a workday evening.
If Mr. Oberholtzer is serious about his candidacy perhaps he would be well-advised to start taking his possible future responsibilities as a county commissioner a great deal more seriously!
As for the political newcomer to Gwinnett politics, Mike Korom, I was aware from the informative flyer he passed out prior to the forum, that he was vehemently opposed to the airport expansion at Briscoe Field. From what I had heard from other people that particular issue seemed to be the main point of his platform. His opening statement and answers to questions seemed very scant and hurried as if he were just waiting for the real issue he cared about to come up.
But when the issue did arise, Korom was not as eloquent or even as passionate as one might imagine he would be, given his supposed dedication to that issue. Instead of offering the audience a glimpse of his leadership abilities through a strong argument against the airport, the new guy on the block merely repeated ad nausea that he was “the outsider” in the group.
If he meant to give people the feeling that he brought fresh ideas and a clean slate to the table, with that little catchphrase, the meaning was hopelessly lost in the repetitions of it. He may have a mile-long business resume but any bright new ideas were seriously missing from his presentation.
Then there was the incumbent, Commissioner Mike Beaudreau. Beaudreau answered questions with firm responses, with the seriousness of a man who knows the gravity of his job to serve the citizens of Gwinnett County and with that stone cold confidence that he is known for and which, though it incurs the wrath of some who disagree with him, is in my opinion an important quality to possess in a county government official.
Have I always agreed with Mike Beaudreau on everything? No. I still have a big problem with the whole trash billing issue. My own trash bill comes from the City of Dacula so I don’t have any dog in that particular hunt except one of general interest. Is Mike the kind of guy who jokes and kids about commission matters? No, he is very often serious- so serious he develops an intensity that sometimes spills over into his conversations.
But there are four things which Beaudreau most assuredly is. He is confident, smart, dedicated and earnest. Earnestness goes a long way with me in an elected official. To say that Mike Beaudreau is anything other than earnest would be false.
Last Thursday night, for the umpteenth time Mike Beaudreau earnestly confronted the ongoing trash controversy with the same confidence as ever, he did what he thought had to be done. I have heard him explain this on many occasions and although I am still not in agreement, I certainly see where he was coming from and totally appreciate his forthrightness.
You saw that earnestness again as he was explaining why he can’t help people with some of the other things he would like to help them with because they are out of his jurisdiction. He was referring to certain homeowners who had issues in the past with cell towers on their property. Beaudreau pointed out that as much as he would like to be of assistance in those kinds of matters, cell towers are a federal matter, the FCC being in charge of that.
When it came to the pending airport proposals to determine the feasibility of privatizing and commercializing Briscoe Field Commissioner Beaudreau rightfully stood his ground with that trademark confidence and told the crowd that it just wasn’t allowed by law to discuss the matter right now.
Mike knows he can’t please all of the people all of the time and he makes no pretense that he can. Those who want their elected officials to mollycoddle them and tell them everything is peaches and cream and some decisions won’t be hard, and harder still to live with, are not often pleased with Commissioner Beaudreau.
And no, I don’t know all the particulars of the grand jury investigation into the illegal land deals by former County Commissioners but I know enough to know that I don’t know anything for certain! Commissioner Beaudreau has never been indicted on any charges relating to that scandal. I am willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt when I have not been given any further information.
Mike Beaudreau has what I believe to be an unwavering dedication to do the best that he can for the citizens of Gwinnett County. He is brave enough to make those tough, often unpopular decisions. He works for what is in the best interests of not only the most citizens but also in the best interest of efficiency in our county government. Gwinnett County needs a Commissioner with qualities like those possessed by the incumbent.
I know I could watch more forums and discussions as the election season progresses, but truthfully, I don’t see the other candidates coming up with anything more than they did at last Thursday’s meeting in Lawrenceville. So, it is this citizen’s opinion that Mike Beaudreau should be returned to his seat on the Gwinnett County Commission from District 3.