Both Braselton and Hoschton will have new mayors take office in January 2022 on the heels of convincing November election wins.

Kurt Ward won in Braselton over Hardy Johnson with 78 percent of the vote to fill the seat of three-term mayor Bill Orr who did not seek re-election. In Hoschton, Lauren O’Leary defeated incumbent Shannon Sell with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

“I really am just grateful,” Ward said of his message to Braselton voters. “We had a lot of volunteer support. We really have a shared vision that has been poured into me for years. I’m very grateful.”

O’Leary’s message moving forward in Hoschton is “pretty much what I’ve ran on the entire time,” she said. “Just transparency, accountability and a lot more ethical decisions.”


Ward will be working with a new-look council when he takes office in January.

Braselton voters elected two new council members, Richard Harper, who defeated incumbent Peggy Slappey in District 2, and James Murphy, who defeated Jeff Garner, in District 4 to fill the seat of Johnson, who opted to run for mayor. Harper and Murphy will join current council members Becky Richardson and Jim Joedecke.

“I’m excited to be part of our town council,” Ward said. “Becky Richardson, District 1, brings the perspective of a life-long Braselton resident and spouse that is an elected official in Jackson County. Richard Harper brings leadership and experience from a 25-year career with the Georgia State Patrol and 15-plus years as a Braselton resident.

“Jim Joedecke provides expertise as an attorney, well-connected Braselton Rotarian and long-time Braselton resident. James Murphy, a life-long Gwinnett and Hall county resident and long-time Braselton resident, is excellent at casting vision, crunching numbers, and being positive — a classic CEO mentality. This is a great team.”

One of the themes of Ward’s campaign was creating a vision for Braselton, maintaining the character of each of the town’s four regions — West Braselton, Central Braselton, East Braselton and Downtown Braselton — and building a brand around that.

“That’s my vision that I feel like I learned from years of being involved with residents in our town and definitely learned from our campaign,” he said. “But I’m part of a team and our town council needs to weigh in on that, and our residents need to pour into us and we need to do it in an intentional way.”

Ward said his goal as mayor is to listen and facilitate a team to develop the town’s future plans. He added that he hopes council members “will invite each of the four areas of Braselton to come before the town council and let us directly listen to their vision and concerns.”

Looking ahead to January, Ward said he’s “humbled” to be taking office and getting to work.

“I really feel like we have a great team,” he said. “I’m humbled that I get a chance to work with these people. These are great people we get to work with.”


O’Leary will preside as mayor over a council that’s also changed.

Hoschton has added two new council seats, expanding from four to six members after a July 1 charter amendment.

Those new seats will be filled by Scott Mims and Fredria Sterling. They will join current councilmen James Lawson and Tracy Carswell, who were both re-elected last week, and Shantwon Astin and Adam Ledbetter. O’Leary and Ledbetter have clashed in the past as the mayor-elect filed an ethics complaint against Ledbetter in September over comments made on social media (the complaint was later dismissed by the city’s ethics board).

O’Leary said she looks forward to working with an expanded city council.

“I think it’s great that we’re going to have two new sets of fresh eyes to look outside of what has currently been happening,” O’Leary said, adding that this is an opportunity for “new ideas.”

“As far as the prior council members, we’re just all going to go in, do our jobs and then get out,” O’Leary added. “We’re there to make the best decisions for Hoschton.”

One of the major points of O’Leary’s campaign was transparency in city government. She said she disagrees with Hoschton’s current city council meeting set-up that places public comment before citizens hear business items discussed.

O’Leary believes the public should be given time to speak and ask questions after council discussion during work sessions and again before the council votes on items during voting sessions.

“That’s important to me,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary also said she’ll push for work sessions and voting sessions to be held on different days and seek to move meetings to the city’s train depot, which allows more space.

As O’Leary takes over in January, she’ll do so as mayor of a city primed for a population explosion over the next 10 years with two large developments being built out on Hwy. 53 by Kolter Homes. She said she’s excited to be taking office at this time in Hoschton’s growth.

“I am very excited,” O’Leary said. “One of my main things, again, is accountability and making sure we’re holding all of these developers accountable and managing infrastructures.”


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