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The gavel's in Bruner's hands now
New mayor outlines plans for Gainesville in next two years
Incoming Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner, left, is handed the gavel from outgoing Mayor Myrtle Figueras during a City Council meeting Tuesday morning. - photo by Tom Reed
Same council, new roles
Ruth Bruner: She was installed as Gainesville’s mayor Tuesday. The role is mostly ceremonial, meaning Bruner has no more power than the other council members, but it means she will lead meetings for the next two years and serve as the city’s official spokeswoman. Bruner also will represent the city on various boards and authorities in the area, including the Gainesville-Hall Redevelopment Authority, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission, the HALLmark Initiative and the Economic Development Council. Bruner was first elected to the council in 2003.

Danny Dunagan: He was sworn in for another four-year term on the council Tuesday and installed as the city’s mayor pro tempore. Dunagan, a local businessman, will serve as mayor in Bruner’s absence for the next two years and is expected to succeed her in 2012 if the city’s charter does not change before then. Dunagan will represent the City Council on the new board of directors for Main Street Gainesville as well as the city’s Parks and Recreation board. Dunagan has been on the council since 2006.

George Wangemann: He was sworn in for another four-year term on the council Tuesday. Wangemann represents the City Council on the Beautification Steering Committee. He has been on the council since 1986.

Myrtle Figueras: She served as mayor in 2008 and 2009 passed the gavel to Bruner on Tuesday. Figueras will represent the City Council this year on the Historic Preservation Commission. Figueras was also mayor in 2001 and 2002. Her current term expires in 2011.

Robert “Bob” Hamrick: His presence will be felt at Planning and Appeals Board meetings this year, as well as on the Friends of the Parks board. Hamrick is the longest-serving member of the council. He was first elected in 1969 and has served as mayor five times. His current term expires in 2011.
Ashley Fielding
Read Mayor Bruner's remarks from the meeting here.

Gainesville has a new mayor and new mayor pro tempore for the next two years.

On Tuesday, the Gainesville City Council appointed Ruth Bruner and Danny Dunagan to serve those roles, respectively.

As she took hold of the gavel Tuesday, Bruner outlined three initiatives that she would like to see the City Council push during her two-year term as mayor, including making Gainesville a regional tourism hub, encouraging developers to build condominiums and loft apartments in the top floors of downtown and midtown buildings and making the lake more accessible to the general public.

Bruner asked that the council spearhead a communitywide effort to stabilize and improve the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue.

“These are tough times economically for everyone in the country,” Bruner said. “But the good thing is is that the recession has given us time to think, to plan, to regroup. We’re going to be poised and ready when the economy turns around to address some needs we have had to defer.”

Myrtle Figueras, who ended her second term as mayor Tuesday morning when she handed the gavel over to Bruner, said she welcomed the change on the council.

“A candle loses nothing if it is used to light another,” Figueras said. “The issue of my heart is not to leave a legacy but to be genuine, to be generous, to be gracious in relating to every human being that God has put on the earth.”

Figueras told Bruner her duties would not change as mayor, only that Bruner would have more duties for the next two years. In Gainesville, the mayor is appointed by the council to serve a mostly ceremonial role in which he or she serves as the city’s spokesperson and representative on various boards and committees. As mayor, Bruner will serve as an ex-officio member of six boards in the city, including the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority and the Economic Development Council.

The council members have historically rotated the mayor’s position among themselves every two years. The current process could change this decade, however.

In November, the majority of a small number of voters who showed up to the polls for citywide elections approved a nonbinding referendum asking whether residents wanted to directly elect their mayor.

Although the referendum was nonbinding, meaning city and state officials are not required to act on the outcome, city officials and state legislators are planning to change Gainesville’s charter to alter the role and power of the mayor.

Doing so would likely mean adding another seat to the council — one specifically dedicated for a mayor. But city officials have said the change may not occur until 2013.

Before passing the gavel to Bruner on Tuesday morning, Figueras addressed the recent call for change on the council, which was originally initiated by the local delegation of state legislators.

Figueras said that despite council members’ different titles, the group always works as a unit.

“We have tried to show our citizens that the office of mayor is one of service and not one of power,” Figueras said. “We choose to see the office of mayor as one for the people, rather than being a political pundit.”

Figueras said that during her term as mayor she kept all the council members informed of all matters important to the council.

“I contend that we’re already elected because of our system of at-large voting,” Figueras said. “Everybody in Gainesville, Ga., has already voted for every one of us... We are a council of council members, and we’re also a council of mayors, which means that all of us help each other to lead.”

Dunagan and Councilman George Wangemann also were sworn in for another term on the City Council on Tuesday by Hall County’s Chief Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller. Both Dunagan and Wangemann were re-elected in November with no opposition.