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New leadership installed at the Atlanta Regional Commission

Anna Roach sits next to Doug Hooker at the March 9th board meeting of the Atlanta Regional Commission. (Photo by Paul Donsky of the Atlanta Regional Commission.)

By Maria Saporta

The Atlanta Regional Commission had its official transition of executive leadership Wednesday when it held its first in-person board meeting since the COVID pandemic.

Doug Hooker, who has been executive director of the metropolitan planning agency for the past decade, gave an emotional farewell address to the board on his last day on the job.

Then, in a ceremonial passing of the baton, ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong presented Anna Roach, who joined the planning agency on March 1 as executive director, the first woman to hold the position in the history of the organization. Previously, Roach served as chief operating officer of Fulton County.

Doug Hooker stands with Kerry Armstrong, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, after being inducted into Georgia Trend’s Hall of Fame on Jan. 25. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

The meeting also had several other highlights. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens attended his second ARC board meeting since he’s been mayor, giving him perfect attendance so far. The public, however, was not invited to be at the meeting in person, but they could be connected virtually.

Also, Atlanta City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland was sworn in as the newest ARC board member — marking another first for the agency. When he was in high school, Westmoreland served on the Model Atlanta Regional Commission, a program to train young leaders on regional issues and engagement. Westmoreland is the first MARC participant to become an ARC board member. Several current MARC members addressed the ARC board at Wednesday’s meeting.

In his farewell remarks, Hooker spoke of how ARC evolved during his tenure to better meet the needs of its stakeholders.

“We have risen to a level of value and respect in the region not because we have money or make rules, but rather because we offer our services and leverage our skills in service and in partnership to others,” Hooker said.

Hooker remembered that when he was being interviewed for the job in 2011, he was asked how ARC could become more powerful and more influential.

“My response then and now is this: When the local government leaders of the Atlanta region speak with a common or unified voice on an issue, they can make many things change; they can move policy and resources in ways that will benefit millions,” Hooker said. “However, you must speak together. You must believe that your presence here is not window dressing, but an opportunity to set a meaningful platform for the future of this place we all love — this Atlanta.

Hooker then urged ARC board members to take seriously the roles and responsibilities they have in the region.

“ARC has been a consciousness that asks all of us to reason based on facts and data,” Hooker said. “ARC has been the eyes that have enabled the region to see our collective way into a dimly lit, yet largely unknown future. ARC has been a voice of encouragement that exhorts all of us to tackle our complex challenges with creative, daring approaches. And ARC has been a spirit of hope that says we can have a better future and leave a better community for generations to come if we will reason together and work on it together.”

When introducing Roach, Armstrong said she already has immersed herself in the organization.

Anna Roach, formerly Fulton County’s chief operating office, joined the Atlanta Regional Commission as executive director of March 1.

“I will tell you that I’ve had trouble keeping up with her,” Armstrong said. “She’s on the go, she’s reaching out and meeting people. We were confident when we hired her, and we are even more confident today. She’s doing a great job and off to a great start.”

Roach thanked Hooker for his service to the region and the state, saying “he will be missed at the table” even though he will continue to be active in the community.

Roach said that in the next 30 to 60 days, she plans to meet with every board member. She also said she was looking forward to working with ARC’s talented leadership team and staff.

She added that heard the weariness among ARC’s board members and staff, especially through the last couple of years, on issues such as affordable housing and economic equity throughout the region.

“I urge you, ARC board members not to give in to that weariness,” Roach said. “We don’t yet have the magic pill that’s going to solve all of our regional issues overnight, but what we do have is new, energized leadership at the helm of this agency. We’ve got new energized leadership in elected roles at this table.”

Roach then spoke of the opportunity for ARC to be involved in the implementation of federal infrastructure dollars and to work with the other regional transportation agencies — the Georgia Department of Transportation, MARTA, the ATL and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority — to help plan and allocate those investments.

“It is critical that we get this right that we have thoughtful conversations and are careful not to leave a single community behind in our decisions with these investments,” Roach said. “In this moment, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is my principal focus as the leader of this agency. It is the precise opposite of a business-as-usual moment for ARC.

Roach closed out her comments by saying ARC will find a way to “challenge this region to take leaps and bounds in the areas of sustainability and addressing climate change.” She express confidence in the board and ARC staff for being poised to take on those challenges.

Meanwhile, ARC said invitations have gone out inviting leaders to attend the 2022 LINK trip, which will be headed to Austin, Texas, from May 4 to 7. In a text, Mayor Dickens said he will be going on the trip.

Maria Saporta

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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