Nick Bruner might not be a Gainesville native, but that hasn’t stopped him from pouring his heart into the community.
“He’s not just on things (like boards), he really digs in and puts his all into whatever he does,” Phil Bonelli, local banker and motivational speaker, said. “He’s very busy, but he never misses dinner with his family, even if he has to work real late.”
On May 6, Bruner was named Jaycees Young Man of the Year. Bonelli, who received the award in 2020, announced the news to Bruner at the awards banquet. Singing and playing his guitar, Boneli delivered his speech in song for Bruner.
“I was totally shocked,” Bruner said recounting the evening he received the award. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that at the event. Phil’s was an actual song. It was pretty special.”
During the same event, Staci Vinton was honored as the Jaycees Young Woman of the Year.
Bruner works as a partner at Rushton, a certified public accountant firm in Gainesville. He leads a team of four associates and focuses on audits, litigation support and business evaluations.
Bruner joined the firm in 2005 as a staff accountant, climbing his way to partner in 2015. He said taking on the job compelled him to move from his hometown of Albany to Gainesville.
“When I first started here, we probably had 15 or less people,” he said. “Now we have over 40. I’m just enjoying what I’m doing and the people I’m doing it with.”
Bruner said his motivation to get involved in Gainesville sparked at his firm. He said employees are encouraged to volunteer at an organization that speaks to them. For Bruner, that was the Gainesville Jaycees.
“It’s always resonated with me because it (Jaycees) is building up that next generation,” he said. “I love it because it gets everyone on the ground level, and it gets everybody involved. It’s that leadership development in those early years that I really put a lot of value on, especially when I started getting involved.”
Bruner became a board member of the Jaycees in 2010, taking on various roles, including president in 2016. During this time, he said his efforts with the organization snowballed into other volunteer opportunities with local groups. He has served on numerous boards such as the Junior Achievement of Georgia and United Way of Hall County. For the past two years he has volunteered as treasurer for Elachee Nature Science Center’s board of directors.
Since 2010, Bruner has been an active member of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, where he currently serves as treasurer.
“We (wife and I) joined Sunday school class and really loved it,” he said. “We met some of our best friends from the area.”
Bonelli, who has been on two boards with Bruner, said the 2021 Young Man of the Year also devotes himself to brightening the lives of those who are close to him, including his co-workers.
Bruner enjoys finding ways to make tax season a little better for the staff at Rushton. Once a week, he’ll push around a cart filled with alcoholic beverages and snacks, while blaring music.
“I’ve been doing it for two to three years,” he said. “It’s something to lighten the mood for a short period.”
Bonelli said many describe Bruner as someone who is frugal, but he is still willing to give selflessly to others. Bruner recently paid off a vehicle, and instead of keeping it for himself, he swapped it out with his father’s older truck.
“He had a new truck, and his dad had a more beat up 2003 truck,” Bonelli recounted. “He was like, ‘Dad, look, I’m trading trucks with you because I want you to have something dependable.’”
Bruner still drives around his dad’s old truck today.
When he’s not working, serving on boards or spending time with his family, Bruner can be found following sports teams, particularly the Atlanta Braves. Before becoming a CPA, he played Division 1 college baseball and entered a professional baseball career for a short period of time.
“In high school they called him the vacuum because nothing got past him on second base,” Bonelli said.
Like many who find themselves in Gainesville, Bruner said it didn’t take him long to fall in love with the area. He lives in the Riverside portion of the city with his two kids and wife.
“For two people that aren’t from the area, everybody has welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “They’ve allowed us to get ingrained in the community, and really help out where we wanted to.”