- Tyler Estep The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gwinnett is one of Georgia’s biggest counties — and in 2017, it was among the state’s busiest and buzziest, too.
The ever-diversifying metro Atlanta community of more than 900,000 had its fair share of headline-grabbing news this year, everything from racial tension and a police scandal to a minor league baseball team swapping monikers.
Here’s a look back at five of Gwinnett County’s biggest, most important and most read stories of 2017 (and a few more honorable mentions, too).
‘John Lewis is a racist pig’: On the Saturday of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, then-President-elect Donald Trump and legendary Congressman John Lewis got in a well-publicized feud. Lewis called Trump’s presidency illegitimate and Trump called Lewis’ Atlanta district “horrible” and “crime infested.”
Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter responded to Lewis’ comments on his personal Facebook page — by calling the civil rights hero a “racist pig” and referring to Democrats as “Demonrats” and a “bunch of idiots.”
Hunter’s District 3, which stretches from the Centerville area through Snellville and Grayson and around toward Braselton, has a significant black population and almost elected Hunter’s Democratic opponent in 2016’s election.
The fallout from Hunter’s comments included months and months of commission meeting protests, calls for his resignation, a flap with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, an ethics complaint and a public reprimand.
Hunter has appealed the ruling that dismissed his lawsuit, calling the ethics board that reprimanded him unconstitutional.
The Stripers, huh?: Way back in May, the Gwinnett Braves announced big news: The Triple-A affiliate of the big league Atlanta Braves would ditch that surname an adopt a new one.
The organization let folks submit name suggestions and later released a handful of finalists (the Sweet Teas, the Hush Puppies, the Buttons, etc.) before ultimately choosing a name out of, ahem, left field.
The team is now known as the Gwinnett Stripers (as in striped bass, as in a type of fish found in Lake Lanier).
A police scandal caught on camera: On April 12, Gwinnett police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni initiated a traffic stop of a black motorist near Lawrenceville. Officer Robert McDonald arrived at the scene soon thereafter.
What followed was caught in two separate cellphone videos recorded by bystanders — and it wasn’t pretty.
One video showed McDonald, who like Bongiovanni is white, stomping on motorist Demetrius Hollins’ head as he ran up to the scene. Hollins was handcuffed and prone at the time.
A second video would later show Bongiovanni striking Hollins in the head and face while Hollins had his hands up.
Within hours of the videos surfacing, Bongiovanni and McDonald were both fired. They were later charged with crimes over the incident. Those cases are still pending.
More on MyAJC.com | Fired Gwinnett officers had history with each other, and with suspect
Transit, transit, transit: Transit — and its future in Gwinnett — was a recurring theme in 2017.
In her February State of the County address, Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash made it clear that she believes the county needs to expand its transit offerings — and that she wants her constituents to have a vote on such an expansion in November 2018.
That’s a big shift in thinking in a county that’s long been resistant to transit but is quickly urbanizing.
More from myAJC.com: Gwinnett adopts transportation plan. Now what about transit?
What type of transit might be included in such a referendum remains unclear, but everything from heavy rail to more buses is being examined in the county’s ongoing transit planning study.
Residents can expect results, and recommendations, from the study sometime in the first half of the new year.
A homeless groundhog?: Yes, a story about a groundhog made the cut. Just this month (December 2017), the Yellow River Game Ranch — the wildlife rescue and petting zoo that had been a Gwinnett institution for decades — suddenly closed for good.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources was working to relocate the animals kept there — including the legendary groundhog Gen. Beauregard Lee, who has long served as the de facto weather-predicting rodent not only for metro Atlanta but the entire Southeast.
The fate of Beau, and his February prognostications, is still unclear.
*Raises for everyone! | Gwinnett law enforcement, other county employees getting raises
*Olympic eyesore no more | Gwinnett’s former Olympic tennis stadium torn down. What’s next?
*Mayoral mayhem | Indicted Snellville mayor fights case against him
*A violent family tragedy | Gwinnett mom felt ‘devil like spirit’ before stabbing husband, children
*A frothy first | Gwinnett’s first-ever craft brewery open for business