Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed names interim team; heads to Davos

By Maria Saporta

With the anticipated departure of Atlanta chief operating officer Duriya Farooqui on Jan 31, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has named a new interim team to run the city until a permanent replacement is found.

Reed, who left  Monday evening for Davos, Switzerland to attend the 2014 World Economic Forum with Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent, announced in press release on Tuesday that he is naming Michael Geisler to serve as interim chief operating officer beginning on Jan. 31.

Geisler currently serves as deputy commissioner and CFO for the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, a position he assumed in November 2012 after a national search conducted by the COO’s office.

Geisler has more than 30 years of experience in strategic and tactical management combined with skills in business development, operations and financial acumen.

“Michael Geisler brings a wealth of proven business, financial and leadership experience to the position that makes him a perfect fit for keeping the City of Atlanta moving forward,” Reed said in the release. “I’m confident he will work well with our senior leadership team to continue leading initiatives within city operations, including public safety.”

Geisler was instrumental in refinancing more than $500 million in debt resulting in annual savings of about $12 million for the Department of Watershed Management. That also helped the department obtain credit upgrades from the three major credit-rating agencies of Standard & Poor’s, Moodys and Fitch.

Prior to joining the City of Atlanta, Geisler held senior management positions at private equity-owned and public companies where his responsibilities included those aspects of management encompassing capital markets, risk management, investor/lender relationships, business planning and financial reporting. He collaborated with boards of directors, executive committees and third-party constituencies to shape and exceed expectations for those entities, the release said.

Geisler holds a M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in accounting from Loyola University in Chicago.

“I’m honored to be appointed to this critical role by Mayor Reed and will continue building on the success of my predecessors to maintain the City of Atlanta’s strong record of performance and customer service delivery,” Geisler said.

Farooqui is leaving the City of Atlanta on Jan. 31, to take a senior-level position with Bain Consulting, a leading global private-sector consulting firm. She helped manage the succession of her position.

In addition to Geisler, Kristin Wilson and Tom Weyandt are being appointed to two additional deputy chief operating officer positions. Hans Utz, also a deputy chief operating officer, will remain in that capacity.

Wilson has been the Innovation Delivery Team Director for the City since November 2011. Using innovation delivery processes, she has led the City’s work on reducing street homelessness and improving customer service.

Previously, Wilson was a vice president of market planning at LexisNexis, and a senior project leader at Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman). She holds an M.B.A. from Stanford University and a bachelor’s in engineering from Dartmouth College.

Wilson’s focus in her new role supporting the COO will be on efficiency in internal operations and external services, as well as revenue strategies for the city.

Weyandt has been a senior policy advisor for transportation in the Mayor’s Office since February 2011.

Previously, Weyandt served as director of comprehensive planning for the Atlanta Regional Commission; executive director of Research Atlanta; and as director of planning and commissioner of community development in the administrations of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and former Mayor Andrew Young. Weyandt holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Weyandt’s focus in his new role as deputy COO will be on public infrastructure, transportation planning and economic development initiatives.

A national search will be launched to find a permanent COO, with assistance from the Atlanta Committee for Progress, an advisory panel of key CEOs.

In the meantime, Reed will be participating in his first World Economic Forum. He will speak on the ascendency of cities and the ways in which metropolitan regions drive economic, political, social, and cultural trends as well as public policy on a global scale.

“It is an honor to be invited to participate in the global problem-solving conversations that will take place in Davos,” Reed said. “Without question, the economic future of our nation and world is determined by the success of cities. I believe that mayors and government leaders are in a stronger position than ever before to leverage the positive impacts of urbanization and address the challenges that face us.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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