By Maria Saporta
At a pivotal moment for metro Atlanta, a major transition in leadership is underway.
Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, announced today his plan to retire on June 30 after 11 years with the planning agency.
Krautler’s retirement follows the departure of two other key members of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s senior team — Tom Weyandt, the agency’s director of comprehensive planning; and Tony Landers, ARC’s director of community services.
At the same time, ARC is playing an integral role in helping put together a list of projects that would be included in the regional transportation sales tax referendum scheduled for August, 2012. The project list must be approved in October.
The ARC also is working on its Plan 2040 that sets the stage for transportation investments as well as helps steer development in the region. Population estimates for the 10-county region project that 8 million people will call metro Atlanta home by 2040 compared to 5 million today. That’s like adding a San Diego to metro Atlanta in the next 30 years.
ARC also has been a leading voice to create an umbrella regional transit agency that could coordinate the multiple public transit operators metro Atlanta — from MARTA, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett Transit and the Xpress buses operated by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.
Historically, one of the major roles of an ARC director is to build consensus in the Atlanta region among the disparate groups and interests.
There’s intown versus suburban versus exurban. There’s elected officials versus citizens members. There’s the tension between mayors versus county commission chairs. There’s the tug of war between developers and environmentalists. There Democrats versus Republicans. There’s the pro-road folks versus the transit and alternative transportation types. There’s the northern part of the metro area versus the southern part. And then there’s always the issue of race, income, gender and age.
In short, building consensus in such a diverse region is difficult even during the best of times.
As part of this leadership transition, the ARC board is doing a strategic review of the organization which could cause some other changes in the executive structure. What is not known is how this uncertainty will impact metro Atlanta’s ability to build consensus and then to have an influential voice among state decision-makers.
After announcing his retirement plans, Krautler said he had debated staying until he turned 65 early next year or even through the sales tax referendum. But he thought it would be better to get new leaders in place as quickly as possible. He said it should be up to the next director to pick his or her own senior staff.
Meanwhile, Krautler said he’s not concerned about how ARC will maneuver during this transition.
“We’ve got really good people here,” he said of his staff.
In looking ahead to a possible successor, Krautler insisted that “there are lots of good people here in Atlanta” and that it was possible that a new team could be put in place rather quickly.
Tad Leithead, a consultant who is ARC’s chairman, said the executive committee and the board would work on an “orderly transition plan” that could include the naming of an interim director and a search for a permanent director.