Column: Trust for Public Land taps Ray Christman; moves regional division to Atlanta

By Maria Saporta
Friday, October 21, 2011

Atlanta business leader Ray Christman has been tapped to become the senior vice president of the Mid South Division for the Trust for Public Land. Also, the division is being relocated from Miami to Atlanta at the same time.

Christman, who currently is executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition, also worked for the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Peachtree Corridor Task Force.

Previously, Christman spent 13 years with the Federal Home Loan Bank system, including serving as president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta.

Christman, who has a master’s degree in urban planning, said that he has always been drawn to TPL’s “unique mission” of promoting land conservation and park land in urban areas.

“I love its tagline: ‘Conserving Land for People,’ ” Christman said. “It is just a great opportunity to have an impact on people’s lives.”

Chris Kay, TPL’s chief operating officer nationally, said Christman’s background will bring a blend of corporate and government experience to the division that covers both the Southeast and the Midwest as well as the Caribbean.

Kay said the relocation of the office from Miami also “reinforces the commitment we have to Atlanta and will serve as a foundation for even more great things happening in Atlanta and the surrounding area.”

TPL was one of the driving partners behind expanding land acquisition along the Chattahoochee River. It also has helped buy property in the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district in Atlanta and has been instrumental in acquiring land along the Atlanta Beltline corridor.

TPL, which is based in San Francisco, was founded in 1972 and has protected more than 3 million acres in 47 states.

Speaking of TPL

The Trust for Public Land also announced that it has named Curt Soper as its new director of the Georgia office, succeeding Helen Tapp, who retired earlier this year.

Soper has been director of the Land Resources Division for the state of Georgia since 2006.

Before joining state government, Soper spent 21 years working for the Nature Conservancy.

“We are very excited to have Curt on board,” TPL Chief Operating Officer Kay said, adding that his experience also will help the organization forge relationships between government and business.

“The future success of our organization is predicated on our ability to build public-private partnerships,” Kay said. “It’s really inspiring work, and I’m excited with what can happen with this new team in Atlanta.”

Soper said he was delighted to be able to build on the work that TPL already has accomplished in metro Atlanta and Georgia.

“I want to be part of making our communities fun places to live,” said Soper, who was born in Oregon and has loved living in Georgia for the past decade.

Stokes takes over at LCC

With the departure of Ray Christman to TPL, the Livable Communities Coalition of Metro Atlanta has named Jim Stokes as the interim director of the organization.

Stokes founded and led the environmental practice for the Alston & Bird LLP law firm for 20 years until he left to become president of the Georgia Conservancy from 2005 and 2008. Since then, he has been involved in sustainability issues across the state.

The coalition, a nonprofit that includes more than 50 organizations, has been a leading smart growth advocacy organization that has taken a leading role in promoting new transit investment in the recent development of a list of transportation projects that is to go before voters next year.

The projects, which would be paid for by a penny sales tax in the 10-county region, included 52 percent for transit, 47 percent for roads and the rest going toward aviation, bicycle and pedestrian projects. Many credit the coalition and its sister organization — Fair Share for Transit — as the reason a majority of the investment will be in transit.

“I see the Livable Communities Coalition having a real voice in promoting the referendum and its transit aspects,” Stokes said. “Going forward, the LCC will work with all sorts of groups to make sure we have the kind of development patterns that can be served by transit.”

The coalition was formed in 2005 as an outgrowth of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Quality Growth Task Force. Christman will continue to be involved by serving on the coalition’s board and executive committee.

Christman said that his two years as the coalition’s executive director were “extremely fulfilling.”

“Obviously the work of the coalition needs to continue on transit and other issues,” Christman said. “There’s going to be strong continuing leadership with Jim and the state, and I’m going to be able to continue to be involved.”

Veronica Biggins honored

The Board of Directors Network, an organization that promotes diversity on corporate boards and offices, announced at its annual gala Oct. 20 that Veronica Biggins had won its prestigious Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans award.

Biggins is a search consultant, who has focused on increasing diversity on corporate boards and executive suites for decades. Currently she is managing director of Diversified Search. Previously, she was a search consultant for Heidrick & Struggles and director of human resources for C&S Bank (now Bank of America).

Biggins also joined the administration of President Bill Clinton serving as director of presidential personnel, helping the president fill appointments at all levels of government.

“Corporations still have a great responsibility to mentor women and move women up into the corporate ranks,” said Biggins, who recently joined the board of Southwest Airlines Co.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who recently joined the board of Delta Air Lines, introduced Biggins at the gala.

Biggins said she was particularly honored because the award was named after the first woman to serve on the board of the Coca-Cola Co. “It’s phenomenal that a company right here in the State of Georgia set the tone for women serving on boards,” Biggins said.

Charles Huddleston, a partner with the Baker Donelson law firm, nominated Biggins because her entire career has been dedicated to promoting diversity.

“Veronica has a resume that carries a lot of weight in any boardroom,” Huddleston said. “She’s been a voice for consciousness.”

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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