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Cumming City Council approves members of new fair advisory board
Cumming Fair

The first members of the Cumming Country Fair and Festival’s new advisory board were named Tuesday at a Cumming City Council work session.

Council members voted 4-0, with Councilman Lewis Ledbetter absent, to install the 14-member board that will give non-binding recommendations about the fair and its events to the city council.

Michelle Daniels, director of tourism with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, was approved, 4-0, as interim president, while longtime county activist Mary Helen McGruder was approved, 4-0, as interim secretary.

The board replaces its previous iteration, the Fair Authority, which was created in 2013 as a means to promote and operate the fairgrounds. It had an eight-member board, and it was seen as a more effective method for managing the fairgrounds, particularly since it could sign multi-year agreements, while the city could only sign agreements of up to a year.

But the authority ended in controversy. There was criticism of its power and make-up. Ownership of the fairgrounds had been transferred to the authority in 2015, and so it could override the council’s plans for the fairgrounds. Meanwhile, membership of the authority included several former elected officials who were perceived by some to be attempting to maintain control of the fairgrounds after several fell in their re-election bids. It was later revealed that the authority had never been used for its intended purpose to sign multi-year agreements or even met.

So the new city council, with new Mayor Troy Brumbalow and Councilmen Chad Crane and Jason Evans in office, dissolved the authority by a unanimous vote this past January. Ownership of the fairgrounds was returned to the city, and Brumbalow tasked the council with finding as many as 20 members to serve on a new board that would provide recommendations on the fair and its events.

All previous members of the authority were asked to serve on the new board. Former Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, former City Administrator Gerald Blackburn, former Councilman John D. Pugh and Councilman Lewis Ledbetter declined, while former Assistant City Administrator Steve Bennett and former Councilmen Quincy Holton, Ralph Perry and Rupert Sexton accepted.

They’ll join Daniels, McGruder, Catherine Amos, Connie May, Shakeeb Ali, Carrie Patterson, Russ Sorrells, Eric Bennett, Kelly Lamb and Julie Tressler.

“I think it’s a great make-up,” Brumbalow said, “and I think they’ll be a valuable asset to the city going forward.”