Gumbs committed to making a positive impact in her local community

Gumbs committed to making a positive impact in her local community via her service as City Council member for District 2 in the City of South Fulton

Carmalitha Gumbs is a wife, a mom, and a fierce advocate for her community. She is currently serving a four-year term as the city council member for District 2 in the City of South Fulton. During her term, she has sponsored more than two dozen legislative measures to increase public safety, spur economic development, ensure fiscal responsibility and enhance residents’ quality of life.

Gumbs is a healthcare industry leader dedicated to increasing access to quality services for seniors. She has launched a range of wellness programs for Atlanta area seniors, including pop-up dental clinics, salons and farmers markets, and other initiatives. Her efforts have emphasized the importance of health education among adults age 55 and older. And she is successfully helping metro area seniors take more ownership over their health, prioritize prevention, and choose a deeper commitment to their wellness over steady decline. 

Council Member Gumbs spent some time with inCity Magazine so that we could get to know her better. Take a look at what we asked her:

What was most surprising to you about the inception of the City of South Fulton?

The most surprising aspect of being one of the initial council members for the City of South Fulton was the time commitment. The role of being a council member is slated as a part-time job. But, building a city as a start-up and from the ground up is beyond a full-time job. 

Also, the transition was not as smooth as we thought or would have liked it to be from the [Fulton] County. There were still a lot of upset feelings from our separation from the County that made the maneuvering through the political process really tough.

We were really excited about cityhood and what it meant for our residents to control their own destinies, but there were a number of roadblocks and a lot of late nights as we worked to figure it all out. 

How would you encourage others about the city?

I encourage people to really do their research on the City of South Fulton. We are in a prime location being that we are close to the airport and depending on traffic, we are less than 5 or 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

I also share with people the history and what attracted me to the area when I first moved here. Actually, before I moved here, I used to come down for business trips. During that time, I would enjoy sitting and watching the activity that was happening in the community. I enjoyed meeting so many influential people — business owners and people that worked in corporate America — it was a whole vibe. 

Take a ride through the city and see all of the things that we have to offer. We have a lot of land and a lot of greenspace even as we are growing. We have a place for people that want to raise wonderful families here and we are also a great place for people that may want to retire here.

From time to time, I have events that people can attend that are interested in learning more about the City of South Fulton. Most of the time, people really enjoy it. I intended to keep telling our narrative so that people will really learn more about who we are.

What made you run for office?

I actually got laid off from my job in corporate America and I decided to go work at a small Black owned planning firm in the metro area. In that role, I was able to work with Dekalb County and I was able to see the politics involved within the workings of the city. During this time, I was also able to spend time with a number of elected officials.

This was the same time period that the City of South Fulton was going through its cityhood for the second time. Then, I served as chief of staff for a sitting elected official which allowed me to see a lot up close and personal as it relates to legislation and how resources were allocated to particular communities.

There were some things that concerned me that I did not want to see happen in my community. I also wanted to debunk the negative stereotypes that surrounded Black politicians by ensuring that we have honest and good working people working in our city government that are dong the work of the people.

After consulting with family and girlfriends, they encouraged me to go for it. As I have said in previous interviews, I never expected to be here, but I am here, and I am enjoying the work. I love meeting new neighbors every day. I truly do this because I love my community and I see the future of what we can and will become in the City of South Fulton and that is why I am glad that I had the opportunity to have that upfront seat to what was taking place in Dekalb county government.

What would you say to someone considering public service?

I have matured a lot in this role, and I mentor young women who want to explore getting into public service. That was one of the things that I decided early on that I wanted to do simply because I did not have anyone embracing me and telling me what I needed to do if I wanted to get into public service. I just came in green and just wanted to serve the people.

There are a lot of things that cause hiccups that can make you want to reconsider [getting into public office] running for office and especially being a woman in politics. I often tell women to bring your authentic self, don’t try to dumb down or alter your looks to try to please people because people will gravitate to authentic people.

You have to have thick skin and I did not have thick skin in the beginning. I used to wonder why people didn’t like me or what I was doing wrong. I am a Cancer, and those characteristics came out in me as I wanted to fix everything but being able to have thick skin and not taking everything personally came with growth.

Ultimately you must let things roll off of your chin and just make sure that you are doing the work that will be for the greater good of the community.

And, most importantly — PRAY.

What would you say surprises people about you and your service?

I am pretty transparent, so I try not to allow for a lot of surprises as it relates to being a public servant.

Something that I am working on now is learning how to create boundaries. When I say the following new phrase that I have learned ‘that is not in my journey today,’ I think that has started to surprise people. I am learning that if my plate is full that there are times that I need to not take on the extra task if I am not able to give my best self to what is being requested of me. I am learning how to say ‘NO’ and provide the selfcare I need. 

My nature has been to always say YES, and I feel that it is surprising people that I am now utilizing my new phrase to take care of myself and my family.

Council Member Gumbs is the winner of multiple awards and routinely is a featured guest speaker, sharing her knowledge with other professionals. Just recently, Carmalitha was featured in Atlanta’s Top 500 Influential Leaders for 2021. Also, she was recognized by former State Representative Sharon Beasley Teague for her outstanding public service and her vital role and leadership in ensuring the welfare of the citizens of Georgia.