By Maria Saporta
The high-powered Atlanta Committee for Progress witnessed the transition of leadership Friday morning when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed passed a symbolic baton to his successor – Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The quarterly board meeting of ACP had planned for this meeting to be a time when it could meet with Atlanta’s next mayor – acknowledging that mayoral candidates may not have known and appreciated the role ACP has played and can play in the success of their administration.
“It went really, really well,” said Larry Gellerstedt, CEO of Cousins Properties who is the incoming-chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress. “Mayor Reed talked about all we had accomplished and the opportunities forward. It was very consistent with the priorities that ACP has already outlined. She had an opportunity to make a few comments, and she certainly was aware of the partnership, and she looked forward to continuing that.”
After the meeting, Bottoms said in a brief interview that ACP’s priorities dovetail nicely with hers.
“I shared with them my tagline – ‘Keep Atlanta moving forward, and leave nobody behind.’ What they are talking about fit well with my priorities – affordability, equity, crime, transit, infrastructure and economic development,” Bottoms said.
“All of those are their touch points. We have had great progress in the city. The real success will be to have it trickle down to the people who need it,” she continued. “We are at our best when we have great partnerships in the city. It’s really nice to see that they are part of that.”
Reed also used Friday’s platform to help impress upon Bottoms, who he supported in the election, the importance ACP has had in his administration.
“My sense is that ACP is fundamental to the success of the city and the office of mayor,” Reed said in an interview after Friday’s meeting held in the offices of Cox Enterprises at Ponce City Market. He called it one of the “most consequential places where you can get concrete advice and counsel.”
Reed said he had relied heavily on his relationships with ACP’s members during his administration.
“When you have hard decisions to make, having the advice of leaders who run complex organizations is invaluable,” Reed said. “Most folks who become mayor have not run complex organizations before.“
He went on to say that “having this cadre of leaders” to rely on is one of the most important assets a mayor has in running the city.
“It is my understanding that, after having had conversations with the Mayor-elect, she is fully committed to this partnership,” Reed said. “It is so important that we had this meeting during the week of the election.”
Bottoms narrowly won the run-off election on Dec. 5 in a race against Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is expected to contest the result. Norwood lost to Reed by 714 votes in 2009, and she lost to Bottoms by 759 votes.
Reed said the meeting did review some of what has been accomplished with the help of ACP during his administration – pension reform, the Westside Future Fund, efficiency and infrastructure oversight, passage of a transportation and MARTA sales tax increase among others.
But the meeting centered on what is next.
“Everyone in the meeting today was in the future business,” Reed said. “It was about having an open conversation with the mayor-elect about the path forward.”
Duriya Farooqui, ACP’s executive director, said the business and civic leaders also thanked Reed for his leadership by giving him a standing ovation. The mayor in turn thanked John Dyer, the CEO of Cox Enterprises, who was serving in his last meeting as ACP’s Chair.
Dyer said the only reason he got a standing ovation was because the mayor stood up.
“I use that power for about 20 more days,” Reed said, adding that Friday’s meeting was “bittersweet.”
Friday’s ACP meeting included some of the most important executives and leaders in the city:
- Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines;
- Craig Menear, CEO of the Home Depot;
- Marty Flanagan, CEO of Invesco;
- Bill Rogers, CEO of SunTrust Banks;
- Donna Hyland, CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta;
- Claire Sterk, president of Emory University;
- John Dyer, retiring CEO of Cox Enterprises and outgoing ACP chair;
- Alex Taylor, incoming CEO of Cox Enterprises;
- Jeff Portman, CEO of AmericasMart;
- Darryl Harmon of Wells Fargo;
- Hala Moddelmog, CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber;
- J. Robinson, CEO of Central Atlanta Progress;
- Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A;
- Drew Evans of Southern Company Gas;
- Wendy Stewart of Bank of America;
- Yum Arnold of Leapfrog Services;
- Scott Taylor, CEO of Carter;
- Dan Halpern of Jackmont Hospitality;
- Ryan Marshall, CEO of Pulte Group; and
- Penny McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Before Friday’s meeting, ACP had been meeting with the mayoral candidates to explain to them the role ACP has played in the administrations of Mayor Shirley Franklin and Mayor Reed and to offer similar support to the new mayor.
After the general election, ACP leaders sought to meet with both run-off candidates, but it was only able to meet with Norwood.
“There were some meetings that were scheduled (with Bottoms), but for whatever reason, those meetings didn’t happen,” Gellerstedt said in a phone interview right after the run-off election.
On Friday morning, Gellerstedt said he had an opportunity to meet with Bottoms on Thursday, and he said they were planning to meet again later on Friday.
Part of ACP’s task will be to share its multi-pronged priorities for Atlanta that it has outlined with the help of the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm.
“We shared (our priorities and) what is going to matter in terms of continuing our success and maintaining the city’s credit rating,” Farooqui said. “We also had a deeper conversation about workforce preparedness.”
Gellerstedt said the McKinsey report provided a “really exciting opportunity” to position Atlanta so it can perform well compared to other cities. “Economic inclusion is an important part of that. You have segments of Atlanta where there is great economic disparity.”
For Farooqui, Friday’s ACP meeting was a good first step.
“This was our first meeting (with Bottoms),” she said. “It was about positioning a strong transition from Mayor Reed to the Mayor-elect.”