New Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Jan. 16 that the search will soon be on for a new leader of the world’s busiest airport.
A committee is being put in place to execute a national search for the general manager position, Ms. Bottoms told Global Atlanta after a wide-ranging speech to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta.
The mayor stopped short of saying current General Manager Roosevelt Council would be out, noting that the committee could conceivably retain the man who replaced Miguel Southwell after the latter’s bitter split with former Mayor Kasim Reed.
But the committee to be announced in a few days will be looking for someone with “global thinking and vision.” The new leader should continue driving operational excellence for what’s also the world’s most efficient airport, even while helping it fulfill its economic development potential, she said, alluding to ongoing “aerotropolis” initiatives.
“There’s a lot of conversation on the airport’s place as it relates to the areas surrounding the airport and how we maximize and leverage where we are with this phenomenal entity, making sure it translates outside the walls of the airport,” Ms. Bottoms told Global Atlanta.
The move is part of an overall review of city positions Ms. Bottoms is launching early in her new term to “restore confidence” in city government in the wake of a bribery scandal that dogged the final year of her predecessor, though former Mayor Kasim Reed was never himself implicated in any wrongdoing.
“It’s been very clear to me very quickly that there is very important work that goes on inside of City Hall, but for us to really be able to go out and sell it on behalf our communities and implement that work, we know that there has to confidence in how we are operating as a city,” Ms. Bottoms said.
That starts with a new chief procurement officer to replace Adam Smith, who this week was sentenced to 27 months in prison for accepting some $40,000 in bribes.
Along with that national search, the city will be gathering best practices on contracts and ethics from around the country — and not just from other cities. Ms. Bottoms said she’s open to learning from the federal government as well as from the private sector to ensure the approval process isn’t too concentrated in one set of hands.
Another priority hire will be a new chief information officer to handle the city’s growing investments in technology, like video capabilities for public safety, a “comprehensive city app” and so-called “smart-city” technologies that will improve traffic flows and other city operations.
“I am looking at every position in the city of Atlanta, even our existing positions and existing structure. I don’t know what the final product will look like,” she said.
No word yet whether a similar search will be put in place for the leader of the city’s Office of International Affairs, which saw the departure of founding director Claire Angelle at the end of 2017.
Mr. Reed, in answer to a Global Atlanta inquiry last year about the sustainability of that office under his successor, had this to say:
“You know better than anybody that it’s much easier to criticize someone for losing something than it is to criticize them for not having it. Nobody can make the excuse that we can’t afford it, because we afforded it and have grown cash at the exact same time, while we moved the city’s credit seven positions. Nobody can ever say that you can’t afford an Office of Immigrant Affairs with a competent professional team because we’ve done it, and we’ve done it without raising taxes. What I’m trying to do as mayor is to leave the table set for all of you so that you have a standard to deal with.”
Ms. Bottoms, for her part, focused heavily on the issues of education and affordable housing during her Kiwanis speech, touching on the important of technical education and job creation to fix systemic poverty and improve the affordability equation.
She also announced that she would end a years-long dispute by turning over deeds of 50 city-owned properties to Atlanta Public Schools, netting applause from the audience.
She spoke after the first morning meeting of her 38-member transition team, which includes a bevy of corporate execs and civil society heavyweights, along with some less common perspectives. Ms. Bottoms said she was particularly enthused about deep participation so far from rappers Clifford “TI” Harris and Michael “Killer Mike” Render. Their presence among industry titans like Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Ed Bastian and SunTrust Banks Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers shows that she’s dedicated to her campaign concept of “One Atlanta,” she said.
The transition team was announced Jan. 11, a little more than a week after a Jan. 2 inauguration ceremony that took place not even a full month after she narrowly defeated Mary Norwood in a Dec. 5 runoff.
“I likened it to a shotgun wedding,” she said of the hastily arranged event amid an already busy schedule including the college football national championship and later, Martin Luther King Jr. day celebrations. “And I was ready to elope.”