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Gainesville set to swear in new mayor
Role has no extra power, but Dunagan to act as face of city
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Gainesville City Council

What: Meeting will include the selection of Gainesville's next mayor
When: 5:30 tonight
Where: Municipal Court Room, Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway


The players will be the same, but their roles will be different.

Gainesville City Council will be in session for its first meeting of 2012 today, with all five council members returning.

The chief order of business at the meeting will be to appoint a new mayor and designate board and committee responsibilities to council members.

After swearing in re-elected council members Bob Hamrick, Myrtle Figueras and outgoing mayor Ruth Bruner, all of whom won their respective 2011 elections or ran unopposed, the council will select a new mayor for the next two years and a mayor pro-tem for one year.

Danny Dunagan, current mayor pro-tem, is expected to be selected as mayor. Currently the council selects the position, which is largely a symbolic title, on a rotating basis.

That may change in two years if the state legislature approves a proposed city charter that would give a new voter-elected mayor position more executive duties.

Dunagan, who was first elected in 2006, will serve as mayor for the first time.

He said his goal is to keep Gainesville on its path to continued economic growth.

"We'll just keep on going like we are," he said.

For now, the mayor's duties are to serve as the face of the city and preside over council meetings.

"The mayor doesn't really have any more power than other members," Hamrick explained.

That doesn't mean the mayor doesn't play an important role.

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said Gainesville's mayor must be good at attracting new businesses into the city by being a good ambassador.

Dunagan, who runs a dry cleaning business in Gainesville, is credited with having a good understanding of the needs of small businesses.

"He knows what's going on with attracting businesses to Gainesville and Hall County," Dunlap said.

Attracting businesses and jobs to Gainesville in 2012 is one of the primary goals of the city.

Council member George Wangemann said the city is working to fill the new Gainesville Business Park, carrying over some success from last year.

In September, ZF Wind Power plant officially opened its headquarters and operations center at the business park. Other businesses, such as ProCare Rx and Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, will start construction at their respective locations in Gainesville soon.

As part of that development, the pedestrian bridge of Jesse Jewell Parkway, which will connect Gainesville's downtown to midtown, is expected to open in the spring.

"We hope there will be some immediate impacts with the bridge opening the midtown greenway to downtown," Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said.

Gainesville also is still waiting to hear findings from Brenau University on its study of the Georgia Mountains Center. The university has expressed an interest in leasing the events center owned by the city for graduate level studies. Brenau President Ed Schrader has said an expansion of Brenau's graduate programs could be good for revitalization in Gainesville. 

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