By Maggie Lee
Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms announced her first appointments on Tuesday, naming the co-chairs of her transition team. One is the leader of Cousins Properties and the other is a top alumna of Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Cousins Properties President and CEO Larry Gellerstedt and former Coca-Cola Enterprises Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Vicki Palmer will provide advice and counsel as the mayor-elect begins to recruit and appoint leaders in her administration.
Swearing-in day is Jan. 2 next year, but Bottoms said she didn’t think all the changes would be in place by that time.
“Thankfully this is not a hostile takeover of City Hall,” said Bottoms. (Outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed was one of Bottoms’ most prominent campaign supporters.)
“So the work that needs to be done will be done at a pace that will be appropriate for us to make sure that we are transitioning into a new administration and also taking heed to all of the things we heard on the campaign trail” as it relates to what the city’s and its communities’ needs are, she said.
Bottoms said the team and she will take a fresh look at city leadership and make decisions as it relates to any national searches that might need to begin.
Bottoms has said she wants to appoint a cabinet-level person to work on education partnerships. And on the campaign trail, Bottoms has praised top city staff like Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields and Planning Commissioner Tim Keane. But on the trail, Bottoms also said that each department head should be vetted at the appropriate time.
“There are several [leaders] that I will hope would be willing to stay but, again, I want to make sure I get the independent assessment with Vicki and Larry’s leadership to make sure it’s appropriate for the next four years,” Bottoms said Tuesday.
Asked about her priorities, Bottoms said there are several things that came up repeatedly during the campaign: procurement, affordability, equity and education.
The city needs to have confidence in procurement, she said. This year, federal prosecutors have racked up four guilty pleas on charges in a pay-to-play investigation into the city’s procurement department.
Palmer said she’s delighted to be a transition co-chair. “I have a lot of faith in mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms, I think she’s going to do an incredible job unifying our city and helping Atlanta be all that it can be,” she said.
“I love the city and all that it stands for,” said Gellerstedt. “When the mayor-elect of the city that you love calls and asks you to help out, you’re delighted and honored to do so.”
Gellerstedt is also incoming board chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a prominent public-private partnership that includes civic, business, philanthropic and academic leaders who have help advise the city’s mayors since 2003. The ACP’s board met with Bottoms and Reed last week, in a symbolic passing of the baton.
Bottoms said she chose Gellerstedt and Palmer for several reasons, among them that it’s important to have people who have an understanding of corporate community and also a deep appreciation and affection for city’s communities.
In 2009, Reed’s own transition team leaders were attorney Lawrence Ashe and outgoing Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, who’d finished third in the mayor’s race.
In 2001, Reed himself co-chaired Shirley Franklin’s transition team. At the time he was a state representative. The other chair was accountant and auditor Peggy McCormick.