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Column: Retiring chief of Georgia Lottery staying in Atlanta

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, August 24, 2012

As Margaret DeFrancisco, president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery, prepares for her upcoming retirement, she and her husband, Joseph, plan to stay in Atlanta.

“Honestly, I could not get my husband out of here with a crane,” DeFrancisco said in a telephone interview on Aug. 21.

DeFrancisco has been living in Atlanta for the past eight-and-a-half years as head of the Georgia Lottery. She also has lived in California, Massachusetts and New York. But now she is firmly rooted in Georgia.

“I love the climate, the culture, the great diversity of geography and people,” DeFrancisco said. “There’s a vitality and a newness to Atlanta.”

DeFrancisco, who told the Georgia Lottery board in July about her decision to retire, will be leaving on a high.

“We’ve had a record year,” she said. “We had a world record for Mega Millions — a $656 million jackpot…. We are going to embark shortly in offering our games on line. We have such great momentum to keep growing.”

So with all the recent successes, why would DeFrancisco want to step down at this time?

“We don’t have an infinite amount of time on this earth,” DeFrancisco said. “The decision to do this has been heart-wrenching. I love this business. I love the people in it, and I love the work that we do.”

DeFrancisco headed the New York lottery program for five years before coming to Georgia.

“I would not have left New York for any other lottery except this one,” she said. “It’s a public benefit corporation” that is dedicated to education through its HOPE grants and pre-kindergarten programs. She was so proud that the record Mega Millions jackpot resulted in $25.2 million going directly to HOPE and Pre-K in Georgia.

But DeFrancisco said that the job is all-consuming, and she would like to get greater balance in her life. She is open to part-time employment, but she is “really looking forward to flexibility” in her life.

“A big driver is that I want to spend more time with my granddaughter, who lives in Boston,” said DeFrancisco, who added that she also would like to spend more time with her two sons who live in Boston and New York.

Meanwhile, she will stay on until her successor is named and on board.
As DeFrancisco said: “I want a smooth, wrinkle-free transition.”

Cemetery ‘alive and well’

Perhaps surprisingly, one of Atlanta’s most popular parks is Historic Oakland Cemetery‚ the resting place for 70,000 residents.

“It’s the city’s oldest landmark in continual use,” said David Moore, executive director of the Historic Oakland Foundation, which was established in 1976 to help preserve the 48 acres in the heart of the city.
Moore made a presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta on Aug. 21, telling luncheon attendees that “your cemetery is alive and well.”

The foundation has been working on a methodical plan to restore the cemetery, to take care of its grounds and landscaping, and to make sure that Atlantans appreciate the sacred space where many leading citizens from Georgia and Atlanta are buried.

The most visited grave site is that of “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell followed by amateur golfer Bobby Jones.

Moore said the foundation has divided the cemetery’s restoration into 10 phases. It already has restored the first two phases for about $700,000. Moore estimates that the total cost to restore the entire cemetery to total about $15 million, of which $1 million already has been invested.

The next phase will be to restore the cemetery’s original six acres, which sit right at Oakland’s main entrance. It is estimated that it will cost about $2 million to restore that section.

Meanwhile, the Historic Oakland Foundation is working through a new “Memo of Understanding” with the city of Atlanta to make sure there’s agreement on the work plan to restore the cemetery.

Also, in keeping with its role as a city park, Oakland has a host of programs to bring people out to enjoy the beauty of the place — Tunes from the Tombs, Sunday in the Park, Halloween tours as well as its regular historical tours that it offers several times a day on almost every weekend.

CDC honoring Carter

The CDC Foundation, a private entity that supports the work of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, will honor former U.S. President Jimmy Carter with the 2012 CDC Foundation Hero Award at CDC’s headquarters on Oct. 18.

Charlie Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, said Carter was being honored “because he has done so much in the areas of River Blindness, Guinea Worm eradication and addressing many of the most pressing health challenges around the world through the Carter Center.”

Stokes said Carter’s work has been a keystone to helping Atlanta become a center for global public health.

“This is a special opportunity to bring those of us who are a part of this network in our community together to celebrate the contributions former President Carter has made to this effort,” Stokes said.

Carter will give a lecture at the event, which will be followed by a reception hosted by the CDC board of directors.

Jewish Federation addition

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has named a new chief development officer — Michael Balaban. He will begin his new post on Sept. 1.

The search was done in conjunction with the Mandel Center of Jewish Federations of North America.

Balaban currently is serving as director of development at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. Formerly, Balaban worked as a senior professional in development and planning at the federations in Providence, R.I., and Columbus, Ohio.

“I’ve been fortunate to visit with numerous Jewish communities throughout the world,” Balaban said in a statement. “I have been welcomed with a shared peoplehood, an innovative spirit and an unbreakable bond to the land of Israel. The constant is a communal understanding that we are there for each other — through the good times and the difficult ones. Nowhere is this more true than what I have found in the community of greater Atlanta.”

New face at Clark Atlanta

Clark Atlanta University has named Henry Taylor as its new vice president for institutional advancement and university relations, according to CAU President Carlton Brown.

Previously, Taylor was chief development officer for the Level Playing Field Institute, an education-focused nonprofit in Oakland, Calif. He also served as director of individual giving at the KIPP Foundation as well as significant fundraising roles at Stanford University.

“Mr. Taylor’s vision and energy align well with the strategic thrust of Clark Atlanta University as we prepare to launch major initiatives that will create new, stronger foundations for the university’s future,” Brown said in a statement. “Beyond the fact that he is an individual of impeccable character and integrity, his ability to generate tangible momentum and create success from a strategic framework bode well for us as we look ahead to the next 25 years.”

Ingrid Saunders Jones, a CAU trustee who is Coca-Cola’s senior vice president for Global Community Connections and chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation, called Taylor “an exceptional candidate” for the position.

She went on to say: “I look forward to working with him to address the needs of this institution, its academic enterprise and outreach into the global realm.”

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.



  1. lollipoptheif October 20, 2012 6:35 pm

    Best regards to Ms. DeFrancisco for all that has been accomplished by The Georgia Lottery Corporation under her leadership of the past 8+ years.
    I know that Ms. DeFrancisco understands the importance of maintaining the security and integrity of the draw process. The Georgia Lottery and the other state lotteries can continue to grow as long as the ticket buyers have confidence in the fair operation of the number draw.  She highlighted the security measures in place for the Mega Millions draw when she spoke with the press as the jackpot reached a world record amount last March.
    The Georgia Lottery conducts the live ball draw for the Mega Millions multi-state lottery, so players across the nation rely on the integrity of Ms. DeFrancisco’s operation when they purchase their Mega Millions tickets.
    I don’t live in Georgia, but I hope that Ms.DeFrancisco can  somehow find a moment to help me with a Mega Millions lottery question. I have tried to find answers through the lottery in my state – which participates in Mega Millions – but my inquiries have simply gone ignored. I believe my questions are fair and appropriate. Can Ms. DeFrancisco or somebody help me find the way to some answers.
    1. Who made the decision to halt the ball draw for the March 9, 2012 Mega Millions?
    2. At what time was it decided to halt the draw and what caused that decision?
    3. Why did the draw management have the announcer come out as usual to introduce the March 9, 2012 Mega Millions draw and then announce that it was halted – this followed by an on screen text providing the same basic information? Why not simply show the text announcement on screen and then have the announcer come out only when they were ready to conduct the actual draw?
    4. On what date and at what time was the actual March 9, 2012 Mega Millions ball draw conducted and completed?Report


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