A second Democrat has entered the race for Gwinnett’s next commission chairman.
Art Sheldon, a transit advocate and environmentalist with a long history of community involvement, launched his 2020 campaign website on Friday afternoon. The Duluth resident joins former state Sen. Curt Thompson as Democrats who have expressed their intention to seek the chairmanship, an influential seat that has been held by Republicans for three decades.
Current Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, a Republican, recently announced her intention to retire at the end of her current term, leaving next year’s race wide open. A victory in the chairman’s race — or either of the other two commission seats that will be up for grabs in 2020 — would give Democrats a majority on the five-member board.
No Republicans have yet expressed intentions to enter the race for commission chairman.
Sheldon, who moved to Gwinnett in 1994, said the county is ready for a Democrat at the helm. He said running for office has been a long-time plan of his.
“I just want to follow through and carry it out now,” he said, “and make this a better place for my son and everyone else that lives here.”
Sheldon, a 65-year-old retired computer programmer, was a member of the Gwinnett Transit Advisory Board for several years and has served on several SPLOST project selection committees.
He is a longtime transit advocate and was active in pushing for March’s failed MARTA referendum.
Sheldon said transit remains a necessity for Gwinnett and a new referendum needs to happen as soon as possible. He said he would bring the long-term vision necessary to get the right plan in place.
Outside of transit, Sheldon said the county needs to focus on affordable housing and increasing density while also protecting Gwinnett’s remaining rural areas. He said he would implement something called the transfer of development rights — a zoning technique that compensates landowners for preserving undeveloped land while simultaneously redirecting development to areas more suitable for denser projects.
Sheldon also weighed in on the controversial federal immigration program known as 287(g), which allows Gwinnett deputies to check the immigration status of anyone that comes through the local jail. Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway recently renewed the program over the protests of immigrant advocates.
The county commission has no direct control over participation in the program, but advocates have lobbied for commissioners to cut the sheriff’s budget to try and force his hand. Sheldon said he would be in favor of doing just that.
“I’m in favor of cutting that line item from the budget,” he said. “And if nothing else, making the sheriff show what else he thinks he can cut in place of that.”
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