By Maria Saporta
For the first time ever, the Atlanta Regional Commission has elected a citizen member as its next chairman.
Tad Leithead, a consultant who used to be an executive with Cousins Properties Inc. (NYSE: CUZ), was elected chairman on the third round.
He will succeed Sam Olens, chairman of the Cobb County Commission, who decided to step down as ARC chair so he could run for state Attorney General next year.
“When they announced it, I was overwhelmed,” Leithead said. “I’m excited, and I’m really looking forward to serving in this role.”
Two other ARC members also had sought to become the new chairman: Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charles Bannister and Fayette County Commission Chair Jack Smith.
In the first round, the vote was: Bannister – 14; Leithead – 13; and Smith – 9. In the second round, the vote was: Leithead – 15; Bannister – 13; and Smith – 8.
At that point, Smith dropped out of the running.
On the third round, the vote was: Leithead – 23 and Bannister – 13. A minimum of 20 votes of the 39-member board is required for someone to be elected chairman.
The Atlanta Regional Commission, in its current configuration, has been around since 1972. In those 37 years, there has never been a non-elected official who has served as chairman. And all but one chairman has been a county commission chair.
Leithead said his election is part of a trend that’s balancing power in the planning organization from beyond county leaders.
“It’s no only the citizen members, but it’s all the mayors who have achieved a more equal voice at ARC,” Leithead said. “It’s a true regional voice.”
In all, the ARC board is composed of 15 citizen members and 23 elected officials. One person serves as a representative of the state Department of Community Affairs.
For the past several years, Leithead has served as chair of the Transportation and Air Quality Committee.
Leithead will need to appoint committee chairs and his leadership team before he takes over in January.
“There’s a fair amount of work to get done,” he said.