By Maria Saporta
The naming of a new CEO for the Atlanta BeltLine could happen in a matter of days. But now the number of finalists has gone from five to four.
The board of the Atlanta BeltLine Inc. is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning when it is likely it will select its next CEO from the four remaining candidates.
One of the two out-of-town candidates — Aundra “Drew” Wallace — is the unanimous choice to become CEO of the Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority. Wallace currently has been executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority. According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, Wallace has informed officials in the Florida city that he would withdraw from the BeltLine search when his contract with the Downtown Investment Authority is finalized.
Wallace is a Georgia native who had received a Masters in Public Administration from Clark Atlanta University.
With Wallace out of the BeltLine CEO search, there now are three local candidates and only one out-of-town candidate.
The executive committee of the ABI selected the five finalists at a meeting on April 10 — two months ago. At a board meeting on May 8, the search was discussed but Chairman John Somerhalder, CEO of AGL Resources, said there needed to be more follow-up discussions with the candidates about questions of timing and availability.
That would seem to indicate that the board’s preference likely was one of the out-of-town candidates because there would be little question about the availability or timing related to the three local candidates.
As a reminder, the three local candidates are:
Lisa Gordon, who currently is the interim CEO of the Atlanta BeltLine and has served as its chief operating officer for the past three years;
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission who has spent several decades as a real estate developer; and
Tom Weyandt, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s senior policy advisor for transportation who has served in several planning roles in the region.
The remaining out-of-town candidate is Paul Morris, who most recently has been deputy secretary for transit for the North Carolina Department of Transportation where he was responsible for the department’s multi-modal divisions as well as a number of land use and transportation initiatives.
Morris has spent almost 30 years in consulting and line management roles focusing on transportation, urban regeneration and development, natural resource managing, public parks and the development of corporate and institutional facilities throughout the United States and Canada.
Although it is not listed in his background information, Morris has another inside advantage. Given his role at the N.C. DOT, Morris has developed a relationship with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who received a warm reception Monday during nomination hearing to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Mayor Reed supported the nomination of Foxx in that role, and since the Atlanta BeltLine is expected to seek federal funding to expand the city’s streetcar network, it may be seen as a plus to have people in the city’s administration who have friends in Washington, D.C. and in President Barack Obama’s administration.
The naming of a new Atlanta BeltLine CEO will happen in a public meeting, and the next one on the calendar is on Wednesday morning.
The Atlanta BeltLine is a 22-mile circular urban redevelopment project that includes multipurpose trails, parks, urban redevelopment and eventually transit along various railroad corridors that created a close-in perimeter around the city. Some of those railroad lines are still active, but most of the have been abandoned or are out of service.
The position of a permanent CEO has been open since last August when Brian Leary resigned.
Some of that banging sound you hear is just the “skeletons” in the Tarheel state transportation closet, realizing that an “escape”may be eminent. Seriously though, one finds it curious that someone involved with NC transportation/transit policies/operations in the past decade, where a truly sorry set of circumstances unfolded. They involved, in part, failed rail bridges at Micro and New Bern, administrative misuse of government owned vehicles/property in the NC Rail division/Amtrak offices in Raleigh, mainline tracks between Selma and Weldon termed by an prior Amtrak president(Gunn)…”falling apart”, and rail/highway crossings in Fayetteville blocked for hours while unit grain trains were switched in the middle of town, and where despite the citizens of North Carolina owning a mainline of railroad between Charlotte(Greensboro, Durham and Moorehead the leasing railroad(Norfolk Southern of recent “no we can’t run passenger trains to the Atlanta MMPT fame) in a sterling example of why the “public-private rail partnership” model should be trashed, still tells it’s track owners on that route to “take a back seat to their freight trains, and if they get in the way of passengers trains to simply “ride the bus!” One is reminded of that old cliche’… Caveat emptor! Once again, what were the attributes in the fellow’s recent employment?!?
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