W. Wright Mitchell, the next president and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

A prominent Buckhead history advocate has been named the next president and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

W. Wright Mitchell, an attorney who founded the Buckhead Heritage Society, will take over leadership of the Atlanta-based Georgia Trust on Sept. 5. He replaces Mark C. McDonald, who is retiring after 15 years at the statewide organization.

“As we look to the future, we’re confident that Wright is the perfect person to lead the Georgia Trust,” said David A. Smith, a former Georgia Trust Board of Trustees chair who led a search committee, in a press release. “With impressive qualifications and a passion for historic preservation, Wright will build on the Trust’s 50-year legacy of protecting Georgia’s historic places and lead the organization through a new era of growth, engagement and impact.”

In the press release, Mitchell called his appointment an “honor.” 

“Over the past 15 years, Mark McDonald has done an outstanding job of leading the organization by increasing membership and revenue, strengthening existing programs, implementing new initiatives and establishing important connections with local preservation groups across the state,” said Mitchell. “I look forward to working with the Georgia Trust staff and Board of Trustees to build on the solid foundation that Mark has established.”

McDonald announced his retirement in January. He will continue the promotion of a new Georgia Trust book he edited, “Architecture of the Last Colony.”

According to the press release, Mitchell previously served on the Georgia Trust Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2012 and held several officer roles, including vice chairman. As an attorney, historic preservation law has been his specialty.

Mitchell was involved in two Buckhead preservation efforts that won Georgia Trust awards. His chance rediscovery of the then-neglected Harmony Grove Cemetery led him to found Buckhead Heritage in 2006, where he served as president for a decade. The group’s rehabilitation work on the cemetery won a 2009 Georgia Trust award. Mitchell also played a role in the moving of the Randolph-Lucas House, a demolition-threatened 1920s mansion, from Buckhead to Ansley Park in 2013. The house won a rehabilitation award from the Georgia Trust in 2020.

Mitchell is an emeritus board member at Buckhead Heritage and remains active in the group’s efforts, including recent exploration of how to preserve a historic Peachtree Road building known as the Lodge that is on the Atlanta Public Schools surplus list. John Beach, a former Buckhead Heritage president and longtime preservationist with the group, praised Mitchell’s work in an email to SaportaReport.

“Wright is a committed preservationist who has shown he has the skills and experience to handle this important statewide role,” Beach wrote. “I’ve worked with him at the local preservation level with Buckhead Heritage for 13 years and found him to be a thoughtful and proactive leader. Lots of Georgians recognize the benefits of preserving our historical resources but often work on issues at their local level independently. I think Wright has the ability to bring these groups together and leverage their efforts statewide.”

Atlanta will now have two major preservation organizations headed by someone named Mitchell. The Atlanta Preservation Center — where Wright Mitchell once served on the board — is led by Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell. The two men are unrelated.

“The Atlanta Preservation Center looks forward to this transition and the future opportunities this will create for historic preservation in all 159 counties,” said David Mitchell about Wright Mitchell’s appointment.

The leadership change comes as the Georgia Trust marks its 50th anniversary. The nonprofit directly maintains two historic properties: Rhodes Hall — its headquarters in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood — and the Hay House in Macon. It also supports private purchases of endangered buildings through its Revolving Fund program and offers tours in its “Rambles” events. On the publicity side, the Georgia Trust is well-known for its annual Preservation Awards and the “Places in Peril” list of the state’s most endangered historic sites.

Update: This story has been updated with comment from the Atlanta Preservation Center.

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