Dave Horton will soon officially step down from his position as administrator of the Cumming Fairgrounds, a position he has held since 1998. Horton said his career with the city began as an intern in 1977 and his final day will be March 31.
“I’ve got a Christmas tree farm now to manage and another farm in Winder that I look after, so I’ve got a lot of work in retirement to do,” Horton said on Thursday. “Just looking at that and all the time and events at the fairgrounds, [it] would be tough scheduling.”
Horton said there were some pros and cons for his retirement.
“It’s one of those things you have mixed emotions [about,”] Horton said. “You’ve got a lot of time invested in your job and a lot of partnerships and friendships through the years. I’ll miss a lot of that, but by the same token, I’m excited about getting out and working the farms on a daily basis and maybe even time to get in the woods or on the lake and spending time with the grandkids.”
After his internship, Horton began working with the city in the recreation department in 1978. He was with the department until 1992 and held positions as comptroller and planning and zoning administrator before moving to the fairgrounds in 1998.
Horton said the fairgrounds has gone through some big changes over the years.
“In ’98, primarily the fairgrounds was the fair and July Fourth. At that time it was through the recreation department, which already had its plate full of activities going on,” he said. “Through the years, we developed quite a few events … that we had there plus developing the heritage village part of the fairground.”
Mayor Troy Brumbalow said he appreciated what Horton did for the city in his career.
“We definitely want to wish him the best,” Brumbalow said. “Dave’s one of the hardest working people you’ll ever know, and while he’s retiring from the city, he has two farms to look after, so I’m sure he’ll still be going nonstop then. He’s been instrumental in making the fairgrounds what it is today.”
City Administrator Phil Higgins said Horton’s retirement was bittersweet.
“While we’re sad to see him leave, I’m happy for him,” Higgins said. “He’s got other opportunities, other things I know he wants to do. He has a lot of plans after retirement and is in good health. It’s just great that he got the opportunity to do those.”
Higgins said Tracy Helms, who serves as events coordinator for the city, will take over as fairgrounds administrator.
Like Brumbalow, Higgins applauded Horton’s work ethic.
“He was a tremendous asset,” Higgins said. “Dave Horton would work like a Trojan. He was absolutely one of the hardest workers I have ever been associated with. He was not afraid to take on anything.”
Horton said co-workers at the city had been like family for 40 years and would “absolutely” be around to answer questions after he leaves.
“The city has always almost been like a family, so that’s always been a unique situation, so that was just an awesome atmosphere to work in,” Horton said. “We had consistent leadership. I had the same mentors throughout that time. [Former City Administrator Gerald Blackburn] was my boss at City Park, and in 1985 when we went to be city manager and I was the director, he was still my boss.
He added: “It’s a little unusual these days for someone to have a career in the same job for 40 years [and] to have the same mentors and leadership in that time.”