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Bruners term as mayor ending
Dunagan up next in largely symbolic role
Danny Dunagan
Danny Dunagan

Ruth Bruner's tenure as Gainesville's mayor is coming to a close.

The meeting tonight will be the last full meeting with Bruner presiding as mayor - a post she's held for two years and one that is mostly symbolic in Gainesville.

Bruner will hold the title through the end of the year, with Gainesville City Council appointing the next mayor during its first meeting of 2012. She will continue to serve as a council member.

On Monday, members of the council praised the job she's done.

"Ruth has done an outstanding job," said Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Dunagan, who is set to be Gainesville's next mayor. "She's a very professional person. She's represented the city very well. I hope I can do as well as she did."

Currently in Gainesville, mayors are not directly elected by citizens. Instead, council members serve on a rotating basis. Dunagan's turn is next.

Bruner explained that while the mayor presides over council meetings, her vote counts equally with other council members.

"It's not that you have more power," she said. "You become the voice of the community and the go-to person through the years that you serve."

Kit Dunlap, president of Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said Bruner has served the role well.

"I think she's been a great ambassador for the city of Gainesville and the Hall County community particularly for business," she said.

Dunlap said Bruner is an "active participant," a good public speaker and works well with others.

All of that, Dunlap said, is good for attracting business to the city.

Likewise, Dunlap said Dunagan has skills that will work well when he takes over as mayor.

Though Bruner is praised by local leadership, she has served through tough economic times for the city, which, like many others across the nation, has been forced to shrink budgets with falling tax revenues.

The mayor admitted that economic conditions have been some of the worst in the city's history in the last two years.

"We're proud of our financial condition," she said, with a 2011 budget surplus to boast about. "Still, we haven't been able to work on some of the capital things we would have liked."

One of the highlights during her tenure, she said, has been the expansion in midtown Gainesville with the new Justice Center and greenways.

Plans are in place for midtown to expand and connect into downtown with the continuing construction of a pedestrian bridge over Jesse Jewell Parkway.

"I'm really excited about setting the stage for some of the growth for the midtown area," she said.

As Bruner continues her work now as a council member, she said the city will be in good hands with Dunagan as mayor.

"He's very passionate about the city from growing up and doing business here," she said. "He's personable and easy to work with."

If Dunagan has questions about his role, he shouldn't have a hard time getting answers since every other council member has already served as mayor.

"They just told me to hold on. I'll be going to more meetings," he said.

Dunagan said little will change with him in the role.

"I'm just going to continue on continuing," he said.

The city has rewritten its charter to allow voters to select the mayor, instead of city council, following a nonbinding voter referendum. That charter will have to be approved by the Georgia legislature.