First Female Mayor Elected in Snellville
Kelly Kautz wins with 52 percent of the vote after a contentious campaign.
That Kelly Kautz was elected as Snellville's first female mayor was kind of lost on the night.
She and Barbara Bender had run a hotly contested -- often contentious -- race for the city's top spot. Right up until the last moments, and even after the unofficial results were announced in Snellville's City Hall, tensions were high.
At one point Tom Witts, a councilman and Bender supporter, got into a verbal confrontation with D. Warren Auld, a local attorney and supporter for Kautz. Later, Dave Emanuel, another Bender supporter, could be heard calling Auld "a sleaze."
When Rita Sabbagh, a vocal Kautz supporter, tried talking to Bender -- to thank her for her service, Sabbagh said -- the candidate threw up her hands in opposition, telling Sabbagh she'd just lost the election and didn't want to be bothered.
Even some poll officers walked out of the room with a few grimaces. "It's a sad day for Snellville," one could be heard grumbling to the Chief of Police.
But, the votes were the votes, meticulously counted over and signed off on until well after 9 p.m. They are now posted on the door of Snellville City Hall. Kautz won with about 52 percent of the vote.
The 34-year-old attorney and graduate of Brookwood High was elated. All she needed to hear was "14," the first number of her final unofficial total -- 1,468. She beat Bender by 134 votes. Close, but not close enough for an automatic recount.
Bender said the people voted wrong, choosing the antithesis of positivity and progress for Snellville -- a city that has been ripe with negativity over a number of years, mayors and councils.
"You know, I feel like I ran the campaign that I wanted to run, a very good, positive campaign with my message, and unfortunately, the voters just didn't accept that," Bender said. "They preferred the negative."
Still, she added, "I wish Ms. Kautz luck, and I hope she does a good job with the city."
But, whether she stays involved in city politics, Bender said she's unsure that would work, or that she would want to. "I'll just have to give it a couple of weeks and evaluate what I want to do next," she before leaving City Hall for her election party at Summit Chase Country Club.
Kautz left City Hall all smiles. She was standing with her mother, Carol Kautz, close supporter Rita Sabbagh and others when she reacted to the win. Her fiancé Rob Knox was also there to support her. "Oh, my goodness," she said over and over. (See video of her reaction here.)
At the Kautz camp, the atmosphere was jubilant. Family and friends had waited for Kautz at nearby Provino's to celebrate while the candidate -- now Mayor-elect -- sat nervously on the floor and then standing in a corner at City Hall.
Her mother, Carol Kautz, said she never doubted her daughter, even when the campaign got testy. She did wonder, though, why her daughter wanted to do this.
"Kelly's always been determined," she said. "She's always done the best job that she could possibly do. She's always given a 110 percent, so there wasn't any doubt in my mind..."
At her celebration, Kautz said, "I'm still just shocked and amazed. I always thought it was going to be close, and I didn't really know if I would pull it off."
She thanked her supporters and vowed to make good on her promises to steer the city's progress.
"I told everyone in this room that I didn't win the mayor's race tonight, that we all won the mayor's race tonight," she said. "We're taking Snellville back, and we're going to move forward."
She'd only garnered the support of just one council member in her quest to be mayor. And, now, she enters a council -- their first meeting being November 14 -- with the majority having hoped she'd lose. However, Kautz said she's ready to work with everyone, even her naysayers.
"The battle's not over, but we're going to continue to work hard," Kautz added. "I want to move Snellville in a positive direction. I don't want to constantly be answering to false allegations, whether they're calling me a liar or whatnot.
"I was elected to represent all of Snellville; even though they may not have voted for me, once I become mayor, I hope to represent all of Snellville as a whole.
"Just because they don't support me, or they're my naysayers I plan on doing what's in their best interest just as much as my supporters."