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Getting in the groove: Cumming mayor, city administrator talk first six months
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Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow sits in his office for a portrait photo Wednesday, June 13, 2018, nearly six months after taking office. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

On the first day of 2018, the city of Cumming swore in a new mayor for the first time in 47 years. Now, Mayor Troy Brumbalow is in his sixth month of office and hitting his stride.

“I’ve got in the groove of everything, and everything is kind of second nature now,” Brumbalow said. “There was a little bit of a [transition with] time management. It’s a lot, a lot of meetings. It’s been time-consuming.”

Brumbalow said he averages about 15 meetings a week in his new position, and while he said it can be tougher on his professional and private life, he knew what was in store for him when he qualified.

“It’s probably about what I anticipated,” Brumbalow said. “I’ve kind of always been one of those to roll with the punches, and play with the cards you’re dealt and solve problems and move forward.”

There have been some other changes that have taken some getting used to, the mayor said, such as being recognized more in his new role.

“Probably the biggest thing is people come up and talk to you, and you don’t know who they are. I’m not good with names; that’s the bad part. I never have been, so that’s the only part,” Brumbalow said. “I don’t mind it at all. But it’s kind of different if you go in a restaurant and you can kind of feel people looking at you when it didn’t feel that way before.”

A week after Brumbalow and new councilmen Chad Crane and Jason Evans took office, then-Assistant City Manager Phil Higgins was unanimously approved by the Cumming City Council as the new city administrator.

Like the mayor, the new city administrator had some adjusting to do.

“I do think I’ve settled into it,” Higgins said. “It was an issue of time management at first. With the abolishment of the assistant city administrator position, there’s a little more on my plate than what I was accustomed to, but I think I’m getting used to the structure now.”

Higgins has worked with the city in numerous roles since 1989 and said he has been impressed with the direction of the city since Brumbalow took office.

“I think we’re headed in a really positive direction, and the mayor’s leadership has been outstanding,” he said. “He’s done a great job.”

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Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow works in his office Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Brumbalow became the city's first new mayor in 47 years in January. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Thus far in 2018, the city has approved new leadership for the Cumming Playhouse, new ordinances for certain business in the city and removed controversial fees for local mixed-use developments.

But perhaps the most visible, and popular, additions this year have been new Food Truck Fridays, Friday at the Fairgrounds and music events.

“Getting all those series of events in place, and the fact that they’ve been very successful and kind of what the community wanted, that’s been the most fulfilling part of the job,” Brumbalow said. “We’re looking forward to some of these new events that are about to hit for the first time. That part is really rewarding.”

Higgins said the community response to the new events has been “extremely positive.”

“So far, the community has just been really psyched about everything that is going on,” he said. “There’s just a good energy right now in town about what’s happening. All signs point to it getting even bigger and better.”

Both Higgins and Brumbalow credited city employees with getting new events going, continuing the city’s previous level of service and helping make the transition smooth.

“I’m a little biased, but I think we’ve got the best employees around,” Brumbalow said. “They really care about the city and doing a good job.”

“The good things is, I’ve got great people who work for me and with me every day and people who have a lot of tenure with the city, people I can count on,” Higgins said. “The staff has really stepped up and done a great job in the transition.”

Though the mayor now has some experience under his belt, there are plenty of challenges ahead and he said his plan is to keep gaining experience and moving forward.

“I think you’ll always be learning,” he said. “There’s never an, ‘I got it.’ No matter what, you’ll always be learning. I just take each step at a time.

“We’re just excited about the direction we’re headed, and I think that the public is too.”