Column: Trees Atlanta founding director Marcia Bansley retiring

By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 1, 2011

For 26 years, the No. 1 advocate for Atlanta’s trees has been Marcia Bansley.

As a tree’s age can be measured in rings, Bansley’s tenure as the founding executive director of Trees Atlanta can be measured in trees. Under her leadership, Trees Atlanta has planted or distributed 81,000 trees.

Now Bansley has decided to retire, effective in mid-May, when she intends to begin studying architecture. She will join Trees Atlanta’s board.

Filling in as interim director will be Connie Veates, a past president of Trees Atlanta’s board.

Trees Atlanta was begun in 1985 by Central Atlanta Progress. Since then, trees have been planted throughout the region — but primarily in the business districts of downtown, Midtown and Buckhead. “There’s an awareness that we need to have trees around us whenever we build new buildings,” Bansley said.

Marcia Bansley of Trees Atlanta

Bansley said it’s an ongoing battle to make sure existing trees aren’t cut down and to make sure new trees are planted and maintained in an urban environment.

“We need to see trees as part of the infrastructure of Atlanta,” Bansley said. “Trees are not just amenities. They clean the air, and they cool our cities. In a perfect world, people would put as much values on trees as they do on other infrastructure.”

Today, Trees Atlanta has a full-time staff of 10 and an annual budget of nearly $1.6 million. Its LEED-certified building is in the Reynoldstown community.

New CEO of Literacy Action

Karen Webster Parks, a former Fulton County Commissioner and civic leader, will be the new CEO of Literacy Action beginning April 4. Parks succeeds Emily Ellison, now director of advancement for the Atlanta Girls’ School.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for me to come back and be involved in the community I love and work in an area that I feel strongly about,” Parks said. “We need people to understand what a huge problem this is for the community.”

After learning that about 800,000 metro Atlanta residents are functionally illiterate, Parks said she was compelled to take on the cause and to see how Literacy Action could work with other community groups to pool resources.

“With her passion for education and literacy, and her ability to execute, Karen Webster is the ideal candidate to lead Literacy Action,” said Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta. “Not only will she lead well, she will also attract others who are not currently engaged to support this cause.”

Previously Parks has served as interim CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, the first CEO of the Civic League for Regional Atlanta, and as a senior corporate vice president for Beers Skanska Inc.

Eco Office update

Southface has been awarded a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kendeda Fund to set up an endowment that would maintain and update its “Eco Office” with the latest technologies in energy efficiency and water conservation.

Southface, the leading Southeast organization promoting green-building practices, has turned its Eco Office into a community showcase and learning demonstration center for those latest technologies.

Tony Aeck, managing principal of the Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc. architectural firm, is chairing the $1 million Eco Office Fund campaign. Kendeda has agreed to match gifts dollar for dollar up to $500,000.

Southface also awarded United Parcel Service Inc. its 2011 Argon Award at its 13th annual Visionary Dinner on March 31 at 200 Peachtree for the company’s leadership in sustainability.
CEOs hear about early ed

Early education advocate Stephanie Blank invited top executives to a dinner March 29 to hear from Lawrence Kellner, former CEO of Continental Airlines, and Kimberly Davis, president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Both are national leaders in the early-childhood education movement.

“Much of the business community is still not aware as to why early education must be a priority investment if you want to impact the current educational crisis,” Blank said. “We want to help educate business leaders on why it makes sense from an investment standpoint.”

Among the CEOs attending were The Home Depot Inc.’s Frank Blake; AGL Resources Inc.’s Suzanne Sitherwood; Delta Air Lines Inc.’s Richard Anderson; Cox Enterprises Inc.’s Jim Kennedy; Aaron’s Inc.’s Robin Loudermilk; Integral Group Inc.’s Egbert Perry; and Georgia Power Co.’s Paul Bowers, among others.

Legacy Lady Tea

The Piedmont Driving Club might never be the same.

The 2011 Legacy Lady Tea was held March 25, honoring 13 women civil rights leaders as well as nine civic and business women leaders — three white and six African-Americans.

For decades, the Piedmont Driving Club did not allow women, black or Jewish members. Upon introducing his wife, Elaine Alexander, a Legacy Lady, attorney Miles Alexander said, “Imagine how many dead members are spinning in their graves today.”

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.

1 reply
  1. shirley says:

    CHEERS to Marcia for her leadership of Trees Atlanta and for her unwavering advocacy of greening Atlanta before most of us fully appreciated the value of her message. I for one expect Marcia’s advocay won’t end with her retirement.Report

    Reply

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