There are any number of reasons why someone would open their lives to the seemingly endless public scrutiny that comes with running for elected office. Driving motivations are as varied as the positions and those that seek them.
Some say they simply want to make a difference; others want to see an end to business as usual. Still others believe they are the only ones that can see a particular job through.
For long-time Gwinnett resident and newly elected County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister, a political career spanning three decades and various state and local positions began with something as unlikely as a pothole.
In the beginning
Back in 1972, Charles and Glenda, his wife, were settling into their newly purchased Lilburn home, which they occupy tothis day.
One morning, Glenda was on her way to work in her new Ford Pinto station wagon when she happened upon a pothole. According to Charles, roads in and around the city were less than desirable back then. When his wife ran across one of those big, gutted-out places, she tore out part of the Pinto#s undercarriage.
Bannister said he figured the city had some liability to help cover the repair costs seeing that the incident occurred on a Lilburn road. But it was not to be.
#I couldn#t get any satisfaction out of them,# he said.
A little while later, Bannister was talking to Lilburn Mayor Jack Sawyer when the fundamental idea was struck. Sawyer advised Bannister that if he wanted to assist the mayor in raising the standards around town, he should run for public office # city council.
In 1973, Bannister ran his first campaign and won. He served on the council for three terms for a total of six years.
#With that, the mayor gave me an opportunity to go to Gainesville, buy some paving equipment and come back to doctor the roads,# Bannister said.
The man who was raised in Tucker stayed on the Lilburn council until he took the next step up by running for, and ultimately winning, the mayor#s seat, which he occupied for four years.
Eventually, the boundaries governing the state#s major political offices changed due to redistricting in 1980. By 1982, a Democrat was in the state House representing Bannister#s area. Gwinnett Republicans # Bannister included # decided that someone from the GOP should throw their hat in the ring for that state House seat. Bannister, who was Lilburn#s mayor at the time, ran for the House in 1984 and won, prompting him to leave the city post at the end of that year.
Bannister found himself a small fish in very large pond under the Gold Dome. At the time, he was one of about two dozen Republicans entering the House side of the General Assembly in 1985.
#I was a Republican before it was cool,# he said. #I never did consider myself a Democrat, and I don#t know why I didn#t. My dad was a Democrat, but as he got older he got smarter, too. And before he died, he was a good conservative.#
Bannister and his fellow Republicans were swimming up-stream when they took office in Georgia. Democrats controlled all the highest levels of the General Assembly, and almost everyone he needed to interact with to accomplish virtually anything was from Bannister#s opposing party.
#We still worked as if we were going to change everything to our way. We didn#t let having opposition cause us not to work for conservative principles and issues we thought might change,# Bannister said of his fellow minority party members.
#We always fought the Democrats. We would always block vote # vote against them if we couldn#t do anything else. Little by little, we learned how to work with them. We#d oppose most of their issues, but you eventually learned how to work with them and make some progress,# he added.