- Tyler Estep The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Brumbalow is 46, an accomplished middle-aged man with a wife and kids, several businesses and a dream of breathing new life into his hometown.
And he wasn’t even born when H. Ford Gravitt — the man he just beat to become the next mayor of that hometown, Cumming — first took office.
“When you’re running against a candidate that’s been in office for 51 years, it’s a pretty Herculean task,” Brumbalow said this week, fresh off a pretty decisive election victory.
To be fair, Gravitt has only been the mayor of Cumming, the Forsyth County seat, for about 47 years. He was a city councilman for one term just before his first mayoral election in 1970 — the year of the Kent State University shootings and the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission.
But Gravitt, an at-times controversial figure who didn’t return The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s multiple calls this week, was still believed to be the longest-serving mayor in Georgia. (By way of comparison, Buford’s Philip Beard, who’s technically a city commission chairman, has been around since “only” 1975. Willie Oswalt has been Lake City’s mayor since 1976.)
So besting the 75-year-old Gravitt in Tuesday’s election — much less by a nearly 20-point margin — was quite the feat indeed. Especially in a town that, even during a period of significant growth, has a population of about 6,000.
Brumbalow, though, was not surprised. He campaigned for two years, an exceedingly long time for a mayoral race, and enticed his neighbors with visions of a reimagined town center, a place to walk and eat and socialize.
They were in.
“We knocked on every door in the city multiple times,” Brumbalow said. “And that was the consensus of the people, that they fellt like it was time for a change, that he had been in office too long.”
And Gravitt wasn’t the only long term incumbent ousted from Cumming’s government. Quincy Holton, a Cumming city councilman since 1969, also lost his seat by a healthy margin.
Upstart Jason Evans beat him with the same platform Brumbalow used — one which, perhaps ironically, involved promising to bring back “that small town feeling”
“Imagine for a moment taking your family down to [a new] city center for a bite to eat and to listen to some live music or to watch a movie under the stars,” Evans mused on his campaign website. “You may run into one of your neighbors, a friend you have not seen in a while, a coworker, or possibly make a new friend. This is the community I want, not a city of government buildings.”
Critics of Gravitt and the old guard — like Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist who’s had her share of run-ins with the outgoing mayor, including being ousted from at least one meeting — say he didn’t do enough to move the city forward.
“The city of Cumming will finally be brought into the 21st century, kicking and screaming,” Tisdale said.
That includes Brumbalow and his council colleagues finally getting official city email accounts — something that didn’t happen under Gravitt.
“We will definitely have email under me,” Brumbalow said.