Possible next chairs of the Atlanta Regional Commission

By Maria Saporta

Metro Atlanta is facing a tremendous transition in leadership, beginning with the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Sam Olens, who has been chairman of the 10-county body since December 2004, is planning to step down so he can launch his campaign to run for state Attorney General.

Olens, who is also chairman of the Cobb Commission, has served two, two-year terms as ARC’s chairman.

At ARC’s board meeting this coming Wednesday, we will find out who is interested in succeeding Olens as chairman. Interested candidates are supposed to declare their intention at that meeting.

Speculation has been centered around three names: Jack Smith, chairman of the Fayette County Commission; Charles Bannister, chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission; and Tad Leithead, who until recently was an executive at Cousins Properties and is now running his own firm.

Smith, who was participating on a panel this week at the Regional Leadership Institute in St. Simons, coyly remarked that he had heard rumors to the effect that he would be seeking the ARC chairmanship.

Responding to an email sent last week, Bannister made a similar statement. “That is a good possibility,” Bannister wrote.

And Leithead, who also was at the RLI conference in St. Simons, said he had not yet made up his mind about whether he would seek the chairmanship. If successful in his quest, Leithead would be the first citizen member to chair the ARC. As long as I can remember, the ARC has been led by county commission chairs.

The chairmanship of the Atlanta Regional Commission is a delicate balancing act. An elected official, by design, must be sure to represent his or her constituency. But as ARC chairman, he or she must also carry a regional flag and promote a regional approach to tackling our problems.

It will be interesting to see who will seek this position, and more importantly, how regionally-minded he or she will be as chair.

The candidates will be given five minutes in October to tell their fellow ARC board members why they should be the new chair. Then there will be an election at the ARC board meeting in early December. Even at that meeting, other people can still enter their names in the ARC chairman’s race.
By Maria Saporta

Metro Atlanta is facing a tremendous transition in leadership, beginning with the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Sam Olens, who has been chairman of the 10-county body since December 2004, is planning to step down so he can launch his campaign to run for state Attorney General.

Olens, who is also chairman of the Cobb Commission, has served two, two-year terms as ARC’s chairman.

At ARC’s board meeting on Wednesday, we will find out who is interested in succeeding Olens as chairman. Interested candidates are supposed to declare their intention at that meeting.

Speculation has been centered around three names: Jack Smith, chairman of the Fayette County Commission; Charles Bannister, chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission; and Tad Leithead, who until recently was an executive at Cousins Properties and is now running his own firm.

Smith, who was participating on a panel this week at the Regional Leadership Institute in St. Simons, coyly remarked that he had heard rumors to the effect that he would be seeking the ARC chairmanship.

Responding to an email sent last week, Bannister made a similar statement. “That is a good possibility,” Bannister wrote.

And Leithead, who also was at the RLI conference in St. Simons, said he had not yet made up his mind about whether he would seek the chairmanship. If successful in his quest, Leithead would be the first citizen member to chair the ARC. As long as I can remember, the ARC has been led by county commission chairs.

The chairmanship of the Atlanta Regional Commission is a delicate balancing act. An elected official, by design, must be sure to represent his or her constituency. But as ARC chairman, he or she must also carry a regional flag and promote a regional approach to tackling our problems.

It will be interesting to see who will seek this position, and more importantly, how regionally-minded he or she will be as chair.

The candidates will be given five minutes in October to tell their fellow ARC board members why they should be the new chair. Then there will be an election at the ARC board meeting in early December. Even at that meeting, other people can still enter their names in the ARC chairman’s race.

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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