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Dunagan sets priorities as new Gainesville mayor
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Gainesville City Council also held public hearings on two businesses' requests for zoning changes on Tuesday night.

City council voted 4-1 to approve the expansion of a bilingual day care center on Florence Drive Southwest. Florence Drive neighborhood resident Nancy Carper spoke out against the expansion complaining of traffic and noise issues caused by the day care and other recent development projects in the area.

Mayor Pro-Tem George Wangemann voted against the expansion after speaking with Carper and meeting with other residents in the neighborhood.

"We have bombarded the neighborhood with invasive developments around them," he said.

Council Member Myrtle Figueras praised the expansion for its work in creating an affordable option for an educational day care center.

The city council unanimously approved zoning changes to the future site of the Smithgall Woodland Gardens. The proposed educational, botanical garden is slated to break ground this summer. 

In his first city council meeting as Gainesville's mayor, Danny Dunagan vowed to keep the city "a beautiful, progressive and safe place to live."

Dunagan was nominated and unanimously approved as Gainesville mayor by fellow council members at the meeting Tuesday night.

In a full room at the Municipal Court Room, Dunagan switched seats with outgoing mayor Ruth Bruner by moving to the center chair.

Dunagan will serve in the role for two years. The mayor is the public face of the city and also presides over meetings.

George Wangemann will serve as mayor pro-tem.

Before Dunagan's appointment, he was the recipient of a good-natured jab from the pastor who led the invocation Tuesday.

Terry Walton, of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, said his parishioners often offer prayers for political leadership.

"They've never told me a mayor needs prayer as much as Danny Dunagan needs it," he joked to chuckles from Dunagan and the audience.

After his appointment, Dunagan gave a brief speech to set the goals for the city moving forward.

Dunagan started by praising Bruner's job as mayor in the previous two years given the tough economic times faced by much of the country.

"She led this city very well," he said. "I have big shoes to fill."

Dunagan said the city would continue its work to cut costs while promoting more economic growth.

The new mayor mentioned the completion of the pedestrian bridge connecting Gainesville's downtown to midtown as another step in the continued revitalization of the city.

Brenau University's plans to expand its graduate program into Gainesville and draw 700 new students into the area, Dunagan said, "could very well be the catalyst that Gainesville has needed."

Dunagan set a new priority in improving traffic conditions that he said "at certain times of the day move at a snail's pace."

"We must start planning now to prepare for the future," he said.

Dunagan also addressed the city's current feud with the county over the use of the Cedar Creek Reservoir. The sometimes sharp-tongued Dunagan took a diplomatic tone on Tuesday with County Commissioner Craig Lutz and County Chairman Tom Oliver in the audience.

"For the good of all citizens, these questions (over the reservoir) need to be answered," he said, and left it at that. 

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