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Maria Saporta ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Housing authority chair makes first comments since death of his children, ex-wife

Maria Saporta
Eugene Jones Jr., new CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 13, 2019

It’s a time of healing at the Atlanta Housing Authority.

At its Sept. 10 board meeting, the authority unanimously selected Eugene Jones Jr. as its new president and CEO. Jones will begin his post on Oct. 7 after he wraps up being president and CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority on Sept. 27.

Eugene Jones Jr., new CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority

The authority has been in a state of flux for years with leadership turnover, a series of lawsuits and limited investments in new public housing. But the healing is not just getting a permanent CEO.

At the beginning of the board meeting, Dr. Christopher Edwards – the board chair – offered carefully-worded comments about his own healing. Last month, investigators found the bodies of Erin Edwards, 20; Christopher Edwards Jr., 24; and Marsha Edwards, 58, the ex-wife of the AHA board chair, in what has been described as a murder-suicide.

“I would like to thank everyone who reached out, said a prayer and stood with us during this trying time,” Edwards told board members, AHA staff and visitors in his first public remarks since the tragic death of his children and ex-wife.

Dr. Christopher Edwards, AHA board chair

“It’s not just me who needs to heal,” Edwards continued. “This city needs to heal; this nation needs to heal. As a physician, I know now more than ever we need to have an open and honest discussion on difficult subjects and come together and work together for the benefit of us all.”

Then Edwards linked the need to heal to AHA’s mission of providing housing options to the least fortunate. When board members came out of executive session, Edwards explained the significance of their decision.

“We deliberated on what we believe is the most important thing a board can do – to hire, and in some cases fire, a CEO,” Edwards said. “Without housing, there is no health care; without housing there is no education for our kids. It is the foundation.”

Grove Park Foundation

It was a big week for the Grove Park Foundation, the Purpose Built Community that is transforming an historic neighborhood in west Atlanta.

Courtney English, Kinnari Patel-Smyth, Meria Carstarphen, Debra Edelson and Matt Westmoreland at ground breaking (Photo by Kelly Jordan for SaportaReport)

First, on Sept. 10, there was a breakfast to thank the top donors to Grove Park, which is working to improve the housing options in the community as well as provide better schools, wellness and the arts.

Both Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen attended the breakfast, but they did not speak to each other.

Still, every speaker thanked both Mayor Bottoms and Carstarphen for their work helping to improve the community. Just the day before, the APS board have voted not to renew Carstarphen’s contract beyond June, 2020.

Rodney Bullard, executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, spoke of growing up in the area when it was called Bankhead rather than the classier name of Grove Park.

This was a s close as APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms got to each other at the Grove Park Foundation breakfast (Photo by Maria Saporta)

After the breakfast, many of those present (minus the mayor who had already left without answering questions from the press) went to the official groundbreaking of the new KIPP Woodson Park Academy in Grove Park.

In addition to the academy, the campus will include a YMCA Early Learning Center as well as a school-based health clinic. The Grove Park Foundation and its partners have been able to raise $51 million to invest in the community.

Debra Edelson, executive director of the foundation, told breakfast attendees there’s still much work to be done to improve the outcomes of community residents.

CARE’s new Innovation Hub

Atlanta-based CARE has opened its front doors to innovation.

CARE cuts the ribbon to its new innovation hub. Michelle Nunn in the center (Photo by Kelly Jordan for SaportaReport)

Thanks to a $5 million grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation made in April 2018, CARE has been able to upgrade much of its outdated office space and reconfigure its ground floor into an innovation hub. Earth University and other nonprofits already have moved in to the transformed space.

A coffee shop-café also has opened up on the ground floor, and that is accessible to the general public as well as CARE’s employees.

Michelle Nunn, CARE’s CEO, helped cut the ribbon to the new space, which she hopes will become an important gathering place for Georgians involved in global health and development.

Susan G. Komen Atlanta board

Seven Atlantans have joined the Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta board to help the organization that is a local resource for breast cancer screening, diagnostic and support services.

“We are thrilled with the depth of expertise and diversity of backgrounds that our new board members bring to our organization, and we welcome them as leaders in our mission to end breast cancer, forever,” said Cati Diamond Stone, CEO, Komen Atlanta. “They collectively share our vision to be a proactive organization that is a respected and responsive leader in the community.”

The new directors are:

  • Selena Bauman, senior director of campaign management and customer experience at Cox Media Group;·
  • Erin Bowman, physician and general surgeon at Atlanta Breast Care;
  • Kristy Brown, co-chair of Alston & Bird’s Litigation and Trial Practice;
  • Keisha Hines, CEO and founder of Coltrane Hyde, a strategic consulting firm;
  • Stacy Hughes, senior vice president of IT Governance, Risk and Compliance at Global Payments Inc.;
  • Nadeem Moiz, CFO of Select Interior Concepts and
  • Joyce Reto, Atlanta office managing partner at RSM, an audit and tax firm.
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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

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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