By Maria Saporta
It’s not surprising for a new mayor to transform her administration with new faces in various roles.
Since taking office in January, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has announced the transition of nearly 20 members of her cabinet. Some have left of their own volition, some have been encouraged to leave in due time, an some have been asked to leave immediately.
Currently, there are six official searches underway – airport general manager, chief procurement officer, chief information officers, human resources commissioner, a fire and rescue officer and an education officer.
Those searches are being coordinated by the Mayor’s Transition Team and the Atlanta Committee for Progress. Each of those positions has its own search committee and search firm helping find permanent executives to join the Mayor’s cabinet.
But there are at least a dozen other key jobs where cabinet members have left their City Hall positions or are on their way out.
Those positions include:
- Jim Beard: chief financial officer
- Jeremy Berry: city attorney
- Catherine Buell: president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority
- Faye DiMassimo: general manager of Renew Atlanta
- Amy Phuong: commissioner Parks and Recreation
- Stephanie Stuckey: chief resilience officer
- Anne Torres: communications director
In a brief interview on Monday, Mayor Bottoms was asked about the transition in her administration and her priorities in deciding who should join her team.
“Fortunately we have some very solid interims in place,” Bottoms said. “A lot of it has been musical chairs.”
Specifically, Bottoms mentioned that longtime Atlantan Tom Weyandt, who will be the interim director of Renew Atlanta; and the Atlanta BeltLine’s Nina Hickson. serving as interim City Attorney.
Also, Bottoms has named Richard Cox to serve as her interim chief operating officer, a position he will hold for a year. That means there will be another search on the horizon.
“We also are thankfully narrowing down many of our searches, primarily the Airport, human resources and education,” she said. “A we have filled the sex trafficking role.”
Oulèye Warnock has been named senior human trafficking fellow of the City of Atlanta, and she will develop and implement a citywide policy blueprint on current anti-trafficking programs and recommendations how to strengthen the city’s policies.
When asked what she would be looking for in naming permanent people to her cabinet, Bottoms said it will depend on the specific positions.
“It’s about making sure, as Mayor, I have the right people on the team for me,” said Bottoms, who said she would be looking for people with special skill sets.
“You want honest people with a high level of integrity and ethics who are also tal
ented and hardworking and have an appreciation for the City of Atlanta,” Bottoms said.
As Mayor Bottoms looks to build out her team, I hope she aims high.
Most importantly, we need highly-qualified people to fill the top roles – people who have the professional expertise rather than political ties.
The City of Atlanta is an attractive enough city that it should be an easy lift to identify and hire people who are highly qualified for their particular roles and share a common vision for Atlanta.
Not all of those positions will need to go through a full-scale search process. But it would be wise to turn to the community and members of her transition team to serve as a sounding board on various posts.
Given that housing affordability is a top priority for Bottoms, getting a top-notched executive to lead the Atlanta Housing Authority would help fulfill Bottoms’ goal of creating a more equitable city.
Atlanta also has gained a strong reputation for sustainability and resiliency. It’s important we don’t lose the momentum we have enjoyed over the past several years.
After four months in office, I’m sure Bottoms is overwhelmed with all the issues she has had to face – from cyber security hacks to federal corruption investigations.
That’s all the more reason to hire the best qualified people to serve in the top positions of her administration.