By David Pendered
The top elected position at the Atlanta Regional Commission is now open and four candidates are vying for the job – three elected officials and one citizen member.
ARC Chairman Tad Leithead announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection as chairman. Leithead said he does hope the ARC board will reelect him as a citizen member, a role in which he said he’s served for 14 years. The election is Dec. 4.
The candidates include a citizen member, a mayor, and two county commission chairs: Kerry Armstrong, a citizen member from Gwinnett County who’s a senior vice president with the development firm Pope & Land Enterprise; Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson; Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden; and Douglas County Chairman Tom Worthan.
The slate of candidates sets into motion a campaign in which the only voters are members of ARC’s board of directors.
The outcome will affect the entire region. The chair plays an influential role in setting the agenda of the ARC, which creates the framework for transportation projects and has assumed the strategic role of planning for arts and culture. The chairman’s influence comes less from direct authority than from the ability to influence the workings of the ARC.
As Leithead described the ARC’s evolution under his leadership: “The ARC is now a board-driven organization, as opposed to a staff-driven organization.”
Leithead said after the meeting he was stepping down for a number of reasons, including the well-being of ARC and professional and personal reasons.
“For my health and for professional reasons, and because it will breathe new life into the organization,” Leithead said. “There comes a time in every organization when it’s time for change.”
According to the ARC’s bylaws, the chair serves a four-year term and is paid $500 a month, plus expenses. Specific duties include:
- Preside at commission meetings;
- Appoint all officers and committees;
- Serve as the ARC’s policy advocate;
- Represent the ARC at hearings, conference and other such events;
- Countersign with the director all ARC contracts for amounts in excess of $100,000;
- Serve as chair of the Executive Committee and as a member of other ARC committees of interest;
- Serve as the chair of the Pension Board of Trustees.
This is a brief description of each candidate, gleaned in part from their biographical statements on the ARC’s website:
Armstrong – Citizen member from District 9 (portion of Gwinnett); current ARC committees include Environmental and Land Use; Ethics; Workforce Board Executive Committee. Senior VP with Pope & Land Enterprises, which he joined in 2012 from his job as senior vice president with Duke Realty Corp. “Kerry also is actively involved in numerous civic, educational, and charitable organizations. He has been on the Atlanta Regional Commission since 2008, serving on its Environment and Land Use and Executive Committees. He is Co-Chair of the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board. He is the Chairman of the North Fulton Community Improvement District, serves as Director and Past Chair of the Council for Quality Growth. He is a Director and Past Chair of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and is a Director for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. Kerry also serves on the board of the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation, and is a Trustee of the Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation.”
Johnson – Mayor of Norcross; chair of Metro Atlanta Mayors Assoc.; chaired Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable, which created the list of projects to be funded with the proposed 2012 transportation sales tax; current ARC committees include Executive – ex officio; Regional Transportation; Transportation and Air Quality. Retired in 2001 as Georgia Tech chair of the music department and director of bands at Georgia Tech, and director of the Olympic Band from 1992-1996. “Bucky Johnson was elected the mayor of Norcross in 2008 and re-elected in 2010. He is an Atlanta native and currently serves on the Gwinnett Tech Foundation Board, the Partnership Gwinnett Implementation Committee, the Gwinnett Artworks Board and is Co-Chair of the Isanbul Center Advisory Board. He is a graduate of the 2009 Class of Leadership Gwinnett and the 2009 Regional Leadership Institute. He serves as the President of the Gwinnett Municipal Association, which represents 14 cities in the county. Bucky is a member of the Peachtree Corners Rotary.”
Oden – Chairman, Rockdale County Board of Commissioners; chairman of the Economic Development and Transportation Policy Committee of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG); current ARC committees include Executive; Budget and Audit Review; Environmental and Land Use – chair; Regional Transit; Transportation and Air Quality; Water Planning District Board. Businessman with 30 years corporate experience and 15 years of small business ownership. “With a heart that is never far from community service, Chairman Oden started The Alexander At’Ta Fund. The non-profit organization’s goal is to encourage young people to get involved in community and entrepreneurship. In 2007, Oden effectively combined his business skills and commitment to youth as Executive Director of the Rockdale County Juvenile Court, Evening Reporting Center. He also founded the United Rockdale Summit, an interfaith network of community leaders, which developed a mentorship program for the Rockdale County School System.”
Worthan – Chairman, Douglas County; GRTA board member; current ARC committees include Aging Services; Regional Transit; Transportation and Air Quality; Water Planning District Board; Executive. Businessman for 36 years in paper and plastic industry, 34 years as field sales agent. “Tom is a charter member of the Republican National Committee, a lifetime member of the Georgia Association of County Commissioners and a member of the National Rifle Association. He is a Mason, a member of Battle Hill Lodge No. 523 and a Shriner. The Worthans are members of Lithia Springs First Baptist Church. He serves on a variety of community organizations including as Chairman of the Douglas County Board of Health, Douglas County Community Services Board, Regional Commission on Homelessness, United Way of Douglas County Board of Directors, Georgia County Commissioners Indigent Defense Council and the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.”