Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms – aim high when building out your team

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.

Keisha Infrastructure

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at the launch of Infrastructure Week at the Metro Atlanta Chamber on May 14 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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.

Richard Cox

Richard Cox

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.

Catherine Buell

Catherine Buell, who served as president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, is on her way out (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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.

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.

8 replies
  1. Not playin says:

    People with integrity usually buy in for the long haul….no matter the issue….which brings to light, why a CEO would be “loaned” to fill a city government position…..

    uniquely weird….is the best way to describe such a transaction…

    aiming high, in an attempt to appear transparent, is unattainable with the ever looming shadow of Kasim Reed cast over his hand picked successor…

    the inability to fill positions speaks to the taint of Atlanta city politics…..the residents of Atlanta have been informed that the current administration didn’t have any input into the Christmas party bonuses….yet many of those who were members of the last administration, are part of the current….

    at what point will Bottoms realize, this isn’t worth it, cut her loses and step down…..Report

    Reply
  2. Scott Carlisle says:

    buell notwithstanding, nothing short of dumping the entire surrounding cast who remain from reed’s reign will remove the stench. bad enough last two elections were stolen from norwood.Report

    Reply
  3. brainstar8 says:

    Unfortunately, Bottoms is aligned with Kassim Reed. Who could not have realized from his first term that he was corrupt – at the least, an opportunist rather than a public servant. Fair or not, she stands in his long shadow in ways that a Norwood, Woolard or Mitchell would not have,

    For every day she is mayor, she bears close scrutiny by the citizens, media and law enforcement. She has already made a major miscue by allowing the law firm who worked for the city during Reed’s terms back on the premises to work on the city’s behalf. Let’s not become comfortable with her because she makes pronouncements about how things will change. At the end of her term, if she decides to run again, we can access her performance on the basis of competence, honesty and the extent to which she has served all neighborhoods of the city – not concentrating on just a few wealthy citizens who can enrich her life, a la Reed.Report

    Reply
      • Brainstar8 says:

        She should be part of the current, ongoing investigation. No need for investigating agencies to hold back. City residents sank eight years into Reed and his hijinks. But he would have been an appropriate fit for another Clinton administration, which was apparently a goal for him.Report

        Reply
  4. jenna blows says:

    Her time is coming. She and Reed are Siamese twins. You cant operate on one while the other doesnt feel the pain. My take…Bottoms doesnt make it to year 2. If she isnt caught up with Mitzi Bickers then the fact that Tracy Reed ran her campaign will be enough. Her deal is about to collapse like the house of cards it is.Report

    Reply
    • Brainstar8 says:

      Big money and power brokers will protect her. Too much at stake for Atlanta’s image if a black woman got taken down. The Sharptons would descend. Ball in media’s court to watch her every move.Report

      Reply

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