John Ahmann named new executive director of Westside Future Fund

By Maria Saporta

The board of the Westside Future Fund, a privately-funded entity aimed at improving the neighborhoods west of the new Mercedes-Benz stadium, has named John Ahmann its new executive director.

Ahmann is the executive director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, the entity that actually developed the concept for the Westside Future Fund in 2013.

For the past 12 years, Ahmann has been coordinating the efforts of ACP, a group of business and civic leaders who have advised both Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and former Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Richard Dugas John Ahmann

Richard Dugas and John Ahmann discuss the leadership transition at the Westside Future Fund (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“John has a deep connection to Atlanta and a long track record of success,” said Richard Dugas, chairman of the Westside Future Fund and CEO of Pulte Homes. “I’m very excited. John badly wanted this, and he showed us he was the best person for the job.”

Ahmann succeeds Quince Brinkley, who served in the role for only seven months before stepping down in early January.

“Quince wasn’t a good match,” Dugas said. “Candidly John has accomplished more in the past four to five weeks on an interim basis than we have in the past several months.”

Ahmann will officially begin his new role after the next ACP board meeting on March 18, but he also has been working to make sure the Westside Future Fund did not lose momentum during the leadership transition. (Meanwhile, ACP will be searching for a new executive director).

“About half of the current residents (on the Westside) are living in poverty,” Ahmann said. “We want to help the current and future residents have better lives through educational attainment, a higher per capita income and reduce crime.”

The goal is to have recovery for the existing residents while repopulating the area, which has some of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in the city.

Ahmann said that as an Atlanta native, he wanted to see tangible success in a part of the city that needs it most.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived there on Sunset,” Ahmann said. “Success is going to be to see something worthy of his own vision. To me, me that is very personal.”

Ahmann, however, is not expecting it to be an easy lift.
“Yes, it’s very daunting,” Ahmann said. But he added that the area now has the attention of the city’s top business, civic and political leaders. Now the challenge will be to get everyone working toward common goals through public and private partnerships.

Dugas said that when the board was looking for a new executive director, it was looking for someone who could deliver three goals: ability to engage the community; ability to manage complex projects; and the ability to help with fundraising.

“In all three of those areas, John has a proven track record,” said Dugas, who described Ahmann as someone who willing to work behind the scenes rather than trying to get the credit.

Ahmann has worked for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and has had his own public affairs consulting firm. He worked on helping secure the collection of King’s personal papers, the Grady Hospital effort as well as working with the Atlanta Public Schools and Decatur Public Schools.

The Fund now will be working on parallel tracks – developing a long-term vision for the area and working to implement short-term successes.

“Our investors have made it clear that 2016 is going to be a year for action,” Dugas said. “We have to be long-term and strategic in our thinking, but we also have got to get things done.”

Already the Fund is working with the City of Atlanta on a “land-use action plan,” and it has contracted with Dhiru Thadani to help put together that plan. The Fund also is working with the Atlanta Police Foundation to house public safety officials in the community. Five houses where the city’s public safety employees will live already is planned for Joseph Lowery Boulevard.

When asked about funding, Dugas said that about $3.5 million has been raised towards a goal of $4.5 million, which would pay for the Fund’s administrative expenses between 2016 and 2018.

Dugas added that they’ve been laying the groundwork to get grants from larger foundations and investments from the corporate sector to help establish an “Equity Acquisition Fund.” The hope is to raise about $10 million to $20 million for that fund, and Jeff Sprecher, the CEO of InterContinential Exchange, has already pledged $5 million to that effort.

The Westside communities are primarily African-American. When asked whether the fact that Ahmann is white was an issue, Dugas said that had been the “elephant in the room” and was honestly discussed by the search committee.

In the end, Dugas said they believed in Ahmann’s viewpoint that “if you have a pure motive and sincerity with your actions, you can cut through that stuff.”

Ahmann said he subscribes to “the Atlanta Way” of bringing the different sectors of the city together to solve problems. Not only does he want to honor that tradition, but he said one important part of the job will be to honor the history of the community and its buildings.

Dugas summed up Ahmann joining the Westside Future Fund as saying: “John is running towards the fire. A year or two from now, it’s going to be about the progress that we’ve made.”

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.

9 replies
  1. DeWayne30303 says:

    As a resident of Westside, I see this working if the other two factors are involved collaboratively; city government and communities leaders must be a part as well as private funding to make a significant difference. I wish John all the success. Let’s hope the City of Atlanta does its part.Report

    Reply
  2. TomWyatt1 says:

    Your race need not dictate the people you can bring together to drive results.  If your vision, energy, experience, and passion meet-the “ship” will be steered in the right direction.  Congrats to this new appointee!  To success and high achievement.Report

    Reply
  3. E. Lorenzo Rease says:

    I sincerely wish him the best. And, I hope that he will finally bring real change to the Westside with great multiple use development without billboards and above ground utility lines. Good luck Atlanta because change can sometimes be difficult.Report

    Reply
  4. Mark says:

    That’s really smart, hire a white guy with no passion, pay him a high salary, and let him try to save a community that is 80% ethnic and 60% living below poverty. You should get someone from the community that has lived on the streets of the west end an area that needs a complete do over. Look at Brookhaven and hire their city managers and planners. Get some out of the box thinkers.Report

    Reply
    • Angel says:

      a lot of Homeless people in 2017-2018 and Leaders are still putting in false reports they have not helped 10 people that I am aware of. I wonder where is the list? Who holds the lies this is shameful a lot of conflict of interest going on in Vine City, English ave, Westend Communities this is shameful when so many are being put on the streets and promised help which they do not get. Who on the Boards is getting funded?????Look it up all will be (wow) People need to get together fright for Justices for all cause the reports are false and we should not have to be put out of our Community cause money is being abused its shameful. these people tell you less and do a lot I wonder if they would every get these people paperwork are start an investigation in these communities or keep letting these people hurt others the Low Income which they feel do not fit .Who is getting paid to make fam;lies Homeless in these Communities? Who on these Boards have brought up all these Properties? Who is giving these people money when they miss used millions and have no records ? They used the money but have no receipts and the same people get rewarded for this? People wake up this is not good this stuff most go to all that helped with miss use of funds and the ones involved that wants to keep their hands clean this is shameful. God Bless All we need an investigation yesterday start from the Boards in these Communities and our fair but fearless Leaders somebody today all proof is in front of you paperwork this is sad. School closing for Parks, Homelessness for Pathways their robbing these children and families of roofs and education this is shameful. They would help somebody with properties that already had money for the same project miss used the money and waited change name and get paid for the same project again I wonder if their going to really use that 8 million are run again and come back with another name change it is to much greed in the Vine City/ English ave. Communities the Board members that sit on the Board getting more money to do projects buying properties out of money that they suppose to help the People putting in false reports false paperwork please they care less about the people voice when wrong help wrong. I think if they start in these Communities they will get all proof, cause you can do wrong so long then God get tried. I wonder why they help certain people give funds to others that take ideals and run with them. People have no where to stay being mislead and hurt. all History is about gone. This is shameful yes we listen to our City Council when he say people are giving false information so untrue we their mis leading the people. Board people are crying out for help their being put on the streets stop giving false reports live and let live. our great Leaders keep putting Low income housing back the Invest Atlanta Board said they helped people but have no list they sit down and report false information. shame on you all. The party will be over soon and then and only then will all get Justices. They Black ball your name when truth be told John feel like he and Ivory feel like they do not have to give interviews cause their working together oh yes together. Take a stand and stop this hate. These people care less about Low Income they changed it to Affordable to knock out Low Income. Affordable can mean anything from $900.00-1,000. We should be able to speak truth. This is sad even on our Leaders part poor Leadership. How can they give to the same people they misused funds just changed their name? Yes I speak about the same thing and I will continue until we get Justice from how were being treated in our Community its to many lies and conflict of interest and corruption going on I can not get help cause I speak please you all are the ones who is taking money benefiting their selvesReport

      Reply

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