2023 Atlanta 500: Government & Infrastructure

6370
2023 Atlanta 500: Government & Infrastructure
Georgia State Capitol

Photograph by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Civic Leaders | Government & Politics | Transportation | Utilities | Legends

CIVIC LEADERS

Atlanta 500: Leona Barr-Davenport

Leona Barr-Davenport
President and CEO
Atlanta Business League

Leona Barr-Davenport is president and CEO of the Atlanta Business League, Atlanta’s oldest minority business development and advocacy organization. As president, she works with the board of directors to increase access to business opportunities for minorities, with specific emphasis on the development of businesses owned or operated by African Americans. Barr-Davenport has more than 25 years of experience in customer service, program development, organizational management, and fundraising for associations and youth-oriented programs.

Education: Benedict College, Clark Atlanta University School of Business (MBA)
Hometown: Johnsonville, South Carolina
Notable achievements: Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame (2019), Carver College honorary doctor of divinity (2014)
Lesson learned: The first step is showing up.
Bucket list: Tour of Africa and becoming an adjunct professor
Who’d play me in a biopic: Angela Bassett


Atlanta 500: Chris Clark

Chris Clark
President and CEO
Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Chris Clark is the longest-serving president and CEO in the century-plus history of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Previously he served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and as deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. A graduate of Leadership Georgia, Clark has frequently been named one of Georgia Trend’s 100 most influential Georgians and one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s most influential Atlantans.

Education: Georgia Southern University, Georgia College & State University (MA)
Few people know: I’m a huge, massive Parrothead. I’ve seen Jimmy Buffett over 25 times.
Favorite book: The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark
Favorite travel destination: Montana
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: You’re lucky they hadn’t invented camera phones yet! Real lucky!
Bucket list: Fly-fishing in New Zealand
Who’d play me in a biopic: A young Michael J. Fox


Atlanta 500: Jerry E. Gonzalez

Photograph courtesy of individual

Jerry E. Gonzalez
CEO
Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials

Jerry Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, a statewide nonprofit and nonpartisan organization with a mission to increase civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino community across Georgia. A native of Laredo, Texas, Gonzalez also leads the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, which promotes voter registration and education, community education, and leadership development.

Education: Texas A&M University, Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (MA)
Why I chose this work: I made a conscious effort to dedicate my work toward improving our state.
First job: Closer at Wendy’s
Toughest challenge: GALEO was a startup 15 years ago.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Friend’s pool in East Atlanta
Bucket list: Trip to South Africa
Who’d play me in a biopic: Jeff Bezos, we have the same hair stylist.


Atlanta 500: Ryan Gravel

Photograph by David Kidd

Ryan Gravel
Founder
Sixpitch

Chamblee native Ryan Gravel is best known for his Georgia Tech master’s thesis, which presented a vision for what would become the Atlanta BeltLine. But he’s also a planner, designer, and author whose work centers on the cultural aspects of urban design, exploring how its intimate relationship with our way of life can illuminate a brighter path forward for cities. The founder of the urban design consultancy Sixpitch and the ideas-focused nonprofit Generator, Gravel was the lead author of the Atlanta City Design and is the author of Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities.

Education: Georgia Tech (MA)
First job: Typing bar codes into a computer in the back room of a music store at Ansley Mall. I guess it was Turtle’s, but I’m not sure.
Favorite movie: Blade Runner 2049
Lesson learned: The ideas we need are often unpopular, unwanted, and underfunded.
Bucket list: Road trip #2 across America with my family, from Los Angeles to Atlanta


Atlanta 500: Kevin Green

Photograph courtesy of individual

Kevin Green
President and CEO
Midtown Alliance

Kevin Green joined the Midtown Alliance as president and CEO in 2011. Previously, he was executive director of the Clean Air Campaign, a Georgia nonprofit working in partnership with transportation management associations and public and private institutions to improve air quality and reduce traffic. Green was formerly vice president of environmental affairs for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and practiced law for a decade; his litigation experience includes state and federal trial and appellate courts across the Southeast.

Education: James Madison University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
Notable achievement: I am the drummer in my daughter Mia’s band.
First job: Delivering Sheetrock off a flatbed truck
Favorite travel destination: Vietnam (so far)
What I’d tell a recent graduate: When the alarm clock rings and you aren’t excited to go to work, it’s time to do something different.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Oakland Cemetery (it’s strangely affirming)


Atlanta 500: Shannon W. James Sr.

Shannon W. James Sr.
President and CEO
Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance

Shannon W. James Sr. is president and CEO of the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, a public-private partnership working to improve the regional economic competitiveness of the area around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A native of Albany, Georgia, James accepted the top job at AeroATL in 2018 following a successful 15-year career in banking. Beginning his career as a part-time teller and customer service representative, James later became the first African American accepted into the management trainee program at the Park Avenue Bank, then went on to serve as vice president of commercial banking for both SunTrust and BB&T.

Education: Valdosta State University
Inspiring person: My mother
Toughest challenge: Becoming a father, because I’ve never met my father
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights
Favorite song about Georgia: “Georgia” by Field Mob and Ludacris ft. Jamie Foxx
Who’d play me in a biopic: Michael B. Jordan


Atlanta 500: Kali Kirkham Boatright

Kali Kirkham Boatright
CEO
Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce

Kali Kirkham Boatright is the CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber where she has served since 2018. In the last year, the chamber received 5-Star Accreditation, with perfect scores in five of eight areas, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and opened new offices at 10000 Avalon in Alpharetta. The chamber will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Prior to coming to North Fulton, Kali served as CEO of the Douglas County Chamber. She has always worked in nonprofit management.

Education: University of Missouri
Why I chose this work: Nonprofit management in many ways chose me. I thought I would become a writer, but I went to work for Golden Key right out of college and thrived in an environment where I wore many hats and worked with new leaders each year.
Favorite book: The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Favorite travel destination: Australia
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Atlanta BeltLine
Bucket list: Travel to anywhere new


Atlanta 500: Katie Kirkpatrick

Katie Kirkpatrick
President and CEO
Metro Atlanta Chamber

In 2020, Katie Kirkpatrick became president and CEO of the 163-year-old Metro Atlanta Chamber. Previously, she was the organization’s chief policy officer, providing a link between the metro Atlanta business community and local and national government. Before joining the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2007 as vice president of environmental affairs, she worked as director of environmental engineering for the poultry producer Gold Kist. Kirkpatrick is vice chair for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District and a newly inducted member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council. Additionally, Kilpatrick serves on the GRACE Commission, which aims to end human trafficking in Georgia.

Education: Auburn University
Notable achievement: Leadership Atlanta class of 2012
First job: Coaching a neighborhood swim team
Best advice received: As a working mother, there will be times that you can’t give 100 percent to both jobs. Just know that whatever you can give, it is enough and better than most.


Atlanta 500: Atlanta 500: Leona Barr-Davenport

Odetta MacLeish-White
Director, Georgia Initiatives
Center for Community Progress

Odetta MacLeish-White is the director of Georgia Initiatives for the Center for Community Progress. In this role, she creates partnerships and strategies for improving vacant, abandoned, and deteriorating properties by lifting up racial equity and rebalancing power dynamics. Prior to joining CCP, she was managing director for the TransFormation Alliance, a partnership of nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses working with residents of impacted communities in shaping outcomes through arts and culture-based community engagement, and by improving housing, transit, and jobs access. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, native was also a senior program director with Enterprise Community Partners’ Southeast market.

Education: Harvard Radcliffe University, Duke University School of Law (JD, LLM)
Lesson learned: I re-learn every day that clear communication is vital to the health of every type of relationship.
Hobbies: Reading and nurturing a container garden on my back deck.
Favorite travel destination: Any beach


Atlanta 500 Veronica Maldonado-Torres

Veronica Maldonado-Torres
President and CEO
Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Veronica Maldonado-Torres is president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. With over a decade of experience as a small business champion and supplier diversity advocate, Maldonado-Torres is a catalyst of growth for both small businesses and large corporations, bringing thought-leadership and innovation to the supplier development space. Prior to joining the GHCC, she successfully guided the development and growth of more than 150 firms across multiple industries ranging from $1 million to $100 million in annual revenue in her role as program director for the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection. There, she fostered over 131 Fortune 500 corporate relationships, and supported the supplier development efforts of more than 41 corporations.

First job: My first official job at 15 was as a hostess in a restaurant. That experience served me well. I love making people feel welcome and valued.
Favorite travel destination: Cartagena, Colombia. My family hometown!


Atlanta 500: Atlanta 500 Rohit Malhotra

Rohit Malhotra
Founder and Executive Director
Center for Civic Innovation

Rohit Malhotra is the founder and executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation, which seeks to eliminate inequality by empowering people to design public policy from the ground up. With a background in social entrepreneurship, digital communication, open data, and community organizing, Malhotra was an Ash Innovation Fellow in the Obama White House’s Office of Management and Budget, working on social impact bonds and pay for performance, and in 2015 was awarded the prestigious Echoing Green Global Fellowship. In 2020, Malhotra was named to the Emory Alumni Association’s annual class of 40 Under 40.

Education: Emory University, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (MA)
Hometown: Atlanta
Why I chose this work: I chose to work at the intersection of public policy and finance because I believe that our city needs more effective solutions to address widening inequality in Atlanta. Inequality disproportionately impacts people who share skin color and a story with my family, and like my family, I love my city too much not to fight for it.
Best advice received: Call your mom.


Atlanta 500: Sharon Mason

Photograph courtesy of individual

Sharon Mason
President and CEO
Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Sharon Mason has held six different leadership positions with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce since 2005; she climbed to president and CEO in January 2018, bringing more than 18 years of chamber and nonprofit leadership experience to the position. In addition to sitting on multiple boards, Mason serves on the Regional Business Coalition executive committee, the Council for Quality Growth board of directors, and was named by Governor Nathan Deal to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Board (GRTA) in 2018 and continues to serve on this board.

Education: Samford University
First job: Special Times Gift Shop in Snellville
Favorite TV show/movie/book: Parks and Recreation, Wonder Woman, all John Maxwell books
Favorite travel destination: Saint John, Saint Thomas, Saint Maarten
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Chattahoochee River trails
Nonprofits: MUST Ministries, Center for Family Resources, liveSAFE Resources


Atlanta 500: William Pate

William Pate
President and CEO
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

As president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, William Pate promotes one of the city’s top economic drivers: tourism. He was vice president of the host committee that managed the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and board member of the host committee for Super Bowl LIII in 2019. In 2020, the American Marketing Association’s Atlanta chapter awarded Pate its Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2019 he was honored as Herman J. Russell CEO of the Year by the Atlanta Business League. The Atlanta Business Chronicle has honored Pate multiple times as one of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs.

Education: Georgia State University (MA)
Hometown: Decatur
First job: When I was 12 years old, I raked leaves for Mrs. Brumbeloe at $2 an hour.



Atlanta 500 Anna RoachAnna Roach

Executive Director
Atlanta Regional Commission

Anna Roach is executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), which facilitates community and development strategies to enhance the metro region’s growth and quality of life. Prior to joining ARC in 2022, she served as the chief operating officer for Fulton County, where she oversaw 4,500 employees in 38 departments with a budget of $1.2 billion. Roach also served as Fulton County’s chief strategy officer and assistant county manager. A lawyer by training, Roach has held several key legal leadership positions during her career, including assistant deputy general counsel for the government of the District of Columbia and administrative law judge in the city of New York. She is a current member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta and the American Bar Association, serves as an advisory board member at Tyler Technologies and Avenu Insights and Analytics, and was past board chair of the March of Dimes, Atlanta.

Education: State University of New York, College at Cortland; St. John’s University (JD)


Atlanta 500: AJ Robinson

Photograph courtesy of individual

A.J. Robinson
President
Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

Since 2003, Knoxville, Tennessee, native A.J. Robinson has been president of Central Atlanta Progress—a private business association and advocacy organization started in 1941—and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. Both groups are committed to making the Atlanta community, specifically downtown, more livable, vital, and diverse. Previously Robinson was president of the real estate company Portman Holdings, where he managed all aspects of the firm’s real estate development processes, including property and asset management of SunTrust Plaza and AmericasMart.

Education: Emory University, Harvard Business School (MBA)
Notable achievement: Being a founder of the Center for Civil and Human Rights
First job: Forklift driver for my father’s company


Atlanta 500: Melinda C. Sylvester

Melinda C. Sylvester
President and CEO
Greater Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce/Melinda the Bridge Builder

Melinda C. Sylvester is the president and CEO of the Greater Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce, which she founded in 2016. Sylvester’s chamber career started when she led the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce in the early 2000s. The St. Martinville, Louisiana, native is also the founder and publisher of Tel-Mel Media & Publishing Co. LLC and publishes Faith & Soul News Magazine. She also established the chamber’s Bridge Builders Accelerator Academy, which fosters economic growth with equity, diversity, and inclusion. She also does public relations and branding.

Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Tyler Perry Studios. It’s magical, just going in the area for visitors.
Favorite travel destination: Senegal, Africa
Nonprofit: Greater Georgia Black Chamber “Bridge Builders”
Who should play you in a biopic: Kerry Washington


Atlanta 500: Pat Upshaw Monteith

Photograph courtesy of individual

Pat Upshaw-Monteith
President and CEO
Leadership Atlanta

Pat Upshaw-Monteith became president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta in 2005, having started with the organization in 1992 as co-executive director. In her time at the helm, she’s participated in the present and future growth of Atlanta by imparting to new generations of leaders the values that have traditionally been central to the area’s success. Previously Upshaw-Monteith served for 13 years as associate general manager of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Education: Albany State University, Bowling Green State University (MA)
Notable achievement: When appointed to my position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, I had the distinct honor of being one of the first African Americans hired in management by a major symphony orchestra.
Favorite book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell



Atlanta 500 Kathy N. WallerKathy N. Waller

Executive Director
Atlanta Committee for Progress

Kathy N. Waller is the executive director for the Atlanta Committee for Progress (ACP). ACP, founded in 2003, provides leadership on key issues important to economic growth and inclusion for all Atlantans and includes more than 40 chief executives, university presidents, and civic leaders. Waller retired in March 2019 after 32 years with the Coca-Cola Company where she was the executive vice president, chief financial officer, and president of Enabling Services. As CFO, she led many sectors of the business including mergers and acquisitions, investor relations, and account and controls. In addition to her C-suite role, Waller, a CPA, was the founding chair of the Coca-Cola Company’s Women’s Leadership Council.

Education: University of Rochester (MBA)
First job: At 16, I worked at the Georgia Department of Revenue in the Tag and Title Office.
Notable achievements: Induction into the Junior Achievement Atlanta Business Hall of Fame established by Atlanta Business Chronicle and Junior Achievement of Georgia (2023), Savoy’s Most Influential Black Corporate Directors (2016, 2017, and 2021), Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Changing the World Award (2015)


Atlanta 500 Kyle Wingfield

Kyle Wingfield
President and CEO
Georgia Public Policy Foundation

As an opinion columnist for nine years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield wrote often about state politics and policy, focusing especially on education and school choice, transportation, healthcare, and state and local taxation. In April 2018, he joined the Georgia Public Policy Foundation as president and CEO, gaining a hands-on role in helping shape public policy at the state level after having written about it for many years.

Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: UGA Grady College John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award (2006)
Best advice received: For all the new parents out there: Never try to make a happy child happier.
First job: I spent a summer working in the dining hall at a Boy Scout camp near Rome. I made $35 a week—$32.32 after taxes.
Favorite travel destination: Jekyll Island


GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

Atlanta 500: Sherry Boston

Photograph courtesy of individual

Sherry Boston
District Attorney
Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

District attorney for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit since 2017, Sherry Boston oversees the prosecution of felony offenses filed in the Superior Court of DeKalb County. She’s the second female district attorney in the history of the office. Previously, she served as DeKalb County solicitor general—the elected official overseeing the prosecution of misdemeanor crimes—and was the first woman appointed as municipal court judge for the City of Dunwoody. Boston has also worked in private practice handling thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in metro Atlanta.

Education: Villanova University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
Few people know: I have a twin sister. Yes, really!
Favorite travel destination: Mexico


Atlanta 500 Jon BurnsJon Burns
Speaker
Georgia House of Representatives

Georgia House Majority Leader Jon Burns will become the new speaker of the state House, replacing long-time speaker David Ralston, who died shortly after stepping down in 2022. Majority leader since 2015, Burns has served in the state House since 2005 and represents a district in East Georgia between Augusta and Savannah. He has sat on the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs; Appropriations; Economic Development and Tourism; Ethics; Game, Fish & Parks; Rules; and Transportation Committees and has been an ex officio member of all other House committees. He lives on his family farm in Effingham County.

Education: Georgia Southern University, John Marshall Law School (JD)


Atlanta 500 Lisa CupidLisa Cupid
Commission Chairwoman
Cobb County

Cupid has served on the Cobb Board of Commissioners since 2013. Some of her accomplishments include expanding transit service, improving citizen education and engagement, and advocating for enhanced public safety measures. Cupid is an attorney and former mediator, policy analyst, and manufacturing process engineer. On the Atlanta Regional Commission Board, she is also a member of the Transportation and Air Quality Committee, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, and the Senior Policy Group of the Urban Area Security Initiative. She is the first Black and first female chairwoman of Cobb County.

Education: Georgia Tech, Georgia State College of Law (JD)


Atlanta 500 Andre DickensAndre Dickens
Mayor
City of Atlanta

Andre Dickens is the 61st mayor of Atlanta. Since being sworn in last year, his accomplishments include the establishment of the Nightlife Division to address bars and clubs with a high history of crime and the reestablishment of the Pothole Posse to rapidly respond to residents’ reports. He has been a member of the Atlanta City Council and is also a businessman, nonprofit executive, engineer, speaker, deacon, and father. An Atlanta native, Dickens is the former chief development officer for TechBridge, a nonprofit that drives community impact by bringing affordable technology and business expertise to other non-profit organizations. In 2018, he cofounded TechBridge’s Technology Career Program, which prepares unemployed and underemployed people for careers in technology by teaching high-demand skills while helping participants land jobs in IT departments across Atlanta.

Education: Georgia Tech, Georgia State University (MPA)
Notable achievements: Coauthored and passed resolutions establishing a $15/hour minimum wage for Atlanta and affordable housing requirements around the BeltLine


Atlanta 500: Carmalitha L. Gumbs

Carmalitha L. Gumbs
Councilwoman
City of South Fulton

Carmalitha Gumbs is a member of the South Fulton City Council as well as the cultural and community affairs manager for the healthcare provider ChenMed, where she’s launched a range of wellness programs for Atlanta-area seniors, including pop-up dental clinics, salons, farmers markets, and other initiatives. Throughout the pandemic, Gumbs worked to make sure seniors had access to food and other supplies while sheltering in place. The winner of multiple awards and a frequent featured guest speaker, Gumbs was recognized by State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague for her outstanding public service and her role in ensuring the welfare of the citizens of Georgia.

Education: Norfolk State University, Strayer University (MBA, MPH)
First job: In the country working at a potato grader
Why I chose this work: I love people. I love being a resource, and I am passionate about my community.
Lesson learned: Everyone and everything is not for you and you cannot force it.
Favorite movies: Grease, Grease 2


Atlanta 500: Eugene E. Jones Jr.

Eugene E. Jones Jr.
President and CEO
Atlanta Housing

Eugene E. Jones Jr. is president and CEO of Atlanta Housing, the Southeast’s largest public housing authority, which serves more than 25,000 families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. With more than 35 years of experience in housing and construction, Jones has served in leadership positions in cities across the U.S. and Canada. In Chicago, he was president and CEO of the nation’s second-largest housing authority from 2015 to 2019. Jones was president and CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation from 2012 to 2014, served as executive director of housing authorities in Detroit and Indianapolis, and has held key roles in housing agencies in Kansas City and San Francisco.

Education: University of Albuquerque, New Mexico Highlands University (MBA)
Notable achievement: Author of Housing Humans: A Vicarious Memorandum
Toughest challenge:
Politicians
First job: U.S. Air Force
Hobbies: Basketball
Favorite travel destination: Greece


Atlanta 500: Eloisa Klementich

Photograph courtesy of individual

Eloisa Klementich
President and CEO
Invest Atlanta

Eloisa Klementich is president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, Atlanta’s economic development authority. As CEO, she is leading an economic mobility strategy which has generated more than 47,803 new jobs and $8 billion in new capital investment, supported $7.1 million of small business funding, and created 7,824 affordable housing units across the city. Previously, she worked as special assistant for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration and served as California’s assistant deputy secretary for economic development and commerce. She also worked as a consultant for Mexican president Vicente Fox.

Education: Pitzer College, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (MBA), University of California, Los Angeles (MA), University of La Verne (DPA)
Best advice received: From my father: “Nothing lasts forever.”
Board memberships: Latin American Civic Association, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Atlanta Technical College, Atlanta Emerging Markets, Startup Atlanta


Atlanta 500: Dawn Luke Arnold

Dawn Luke Arnold
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Invest Atlanta

As executive vice president and chief operating officer of the city’s official economic development agency, Dawn Luke Arnold oversees Invest Atlanta’s community development, finance, information technology, human resources, operations, and investment services departments. Previously, she served as the organization’s senior vice president of community development, responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction in the successful execution of a shared vision of comprehensive community development, quality affordable housing, and economic growth in Atlanta’s 10 tax allocation districts. Arnold also managed and operated Invest Atlanta’s multifamily and single-family housing bond portfolio of approximately $1.8 billion and more than 20,000 units of housing.

Education: Spelman College, Georgia State University (MBA)
Hometown: LaGrange, Georgia
Why I chose this work: After having been homeless for a short period of time, then living in substandard housing, I made it my life’s mission to ensure that people are able to have decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing.


Atlanta 500: Lauren “Bubba” McDonald

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald
Commissioner
Georgia Public Service Commission

Following 20 years as a state representative, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald was appointed to the Georgia Public Service Commission in 1998 by Governor Zell Miller, and then reelected in a special election later that year. He held the seat until 2002. McDonald returned to the commission in 2008 and served as chairman. He was reelected to the commission in 2014 and 2020. He is also a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Electricity and an executive member of the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition.

Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: Started funeral-home business with son in 1997 and now own three funeral homes.
Why I chose this work: Zell Miller talked me into it.
First job: Soda jerk at Commerce Drug Company
Few people know: Won first place in Georgia boys choir solo at age 12
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: The Varsity


Atlanta 500: Robert J. Murphy

Photograph courtesy of individual

Robert J. Murphy
Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Field Division
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Counting more than 27 years of law enforcement experience, Robert J. Murphy serves as special agent in charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He leads hundreds of special agents, task force officers, intelligence research specialists, diversion investigators, and other employees assigned to Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Murphy began his career in 1991 as an officer in the Orlando Police Department.

Education: Florida State University
Notable achievements: Three-time recipient of the U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces National Case of the Year Award
Inspiring person: I was working at Publix supermarkets through college. A Tallahassee Police Department officer who worked security at the Publix talked me into doing a ride-along one night, and I was hooked.
Who’d play me in a biopic: Kevin Bacon


Atlanta 500: Rusty Paul

Photograph courtesy of individual

Russell K. Paul
Mayor
Sandy Springs

Elected mayor of Sandy Springs in 2013, Russell K. “Rusty” Paul brings more than 40 years of government experience to the job. A former state senator, he was elected to Sandy Springs’ founding city council in 2005 and has served on the city’s charter review commission and development authority. Paul also worked for the first Bush administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations.

Education: Samford University
Few people know: I’m a chick-flick aficionado; I’m addicted to the Hallmark Channel.
First job: Picking cotton at age six
Lesson learned: Politics is a team sport, and you have to build relationships, looking for common ground with people who disagree or have a different set of solutions than yours.
Favorite travel destination: My cabin at the farm on which I grew up [near Birmingham]—land that has been in my family since 1880


Atlanta 500: Robb Pitts

Photograph courtesy of individual

Robb Pitts
Chairman
Fulton County Board of Commissioners

Robb Pitts was elected in 2017 as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, having previously served on the board from 2002 to 2014. Pitts also served two decades on the Atlanta City Council, including a stint as president from 1997 to 2001. As a Fulton commissioner, he advocated for diversification of revenue sources to relieve tax burdens on property owners. Pitts is also a former college professor and registered real estate broker.

Education: Ohio University, Academia Hispano Americana, Kent State University, La Universidad Interamericana, Emory University (MA)
Why I chose this work: I wanted to effect positive change and ensure that taxpayers receive the services they pay for in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.


Atlanta 500 Sheikh Rahman

Sheikh Rahman
State Senator
Georgia State Senate

Senator Sheikh Rahman, a Democrat, is the first immigrant and first Asian American to serve in the Georgia State Senate. He is also the first Muslim Georgia Legislator. Elected in 2018, he represents the 5th Senate District in the heart of Gwinnett. Rahman is the chairman of the Gwinnett Senate Delegation and the secretary of the Urban Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Economic Development and Tourism, Government Oversight, and Special Judiciary committees. Rahman grew up in Bangladesh, where his country was devastated by the Bangladesh Liberation War of Independence in 1971. At 13, Rahman was kidnapped at gunpoint as a prisoner of war. He came to America in 1981, becoming a citizen in 1995.

Education: University of Georgia
Notable accomplishments: Received the Rising Environmental Leader Award 2021 from the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. In 2019, Georgia Asia Times named him the 25th Most Influential Asian American in Georgia.


Atlanta 500: Lee Thomas

Lee Thomas
Deputy Commissioner, Film, Music & Digital Entertainment
Georgia Department of Economic Development

Lee Thomas is a deputy commissioner at the Georgia Department of Economic Development and division director of the Georgia Film Office. She’s helped Georgia become one of the top filming locations in the world, overseeing growth from $250 million to $2.9 billion in direct spending in the state. A native Atlantan, Thomas pursued doctoral studies in New York before returning to the city in 1996 to work for the Georgia Film and Videotape Office as a project manager, becoming a location specialist for the office in 1998 and director of the film division in 2010.

Education: University of Georgia, Georgia State University (MA), New York University
Notable achievement: Georgia Trend Georgian of the Year (2019)
Inspiring person: Jimmy Carter
Few people know: We owned a restaurant and campground in Rabun County from 2010 until January 2020. It was initially an adventure renovating and running it, but it became way too much to handle!


Atlanta 500 Michael L. Thurmond

Michael L. Thurmond
CEO
DeKalb County Government

Pursuing his top priority of restoring faith in county government, CEO Michael L. Thurmond’s accomplishments include a comprehensive Covid-19 response strategy in which DeKalb distributed personal protection equipment countywide; establishing a small business loan program; partnering with south Georgia farmers to help families fighting food insecurity; incentivized vaccination events; providing virtual youth summer employment and training opportunities; and implementing a multimillion-dollar crime interruption and prevention strategy—all while delivering essential county services during the pandemic. Substantial progress was also made on ensuring accurate water bills, implementing a $600 million SPLOST-funded capital improvement initiative, and renegotiating a sewer consent agreement. Thurmond has earned the reputation of being a “turnaround expert” after fundamentally transforming the culture and enhancing operations of organizations such as Georgia Division of Family & Children Services, Georgia Department of Labor, and DeKalb County School District.

Education: Paine College, University of South Carolina School of Law (JD)


Atlanta 500: Fani T. Willis

Fani T. Willis
District Attorney
Fulton County District Attorney’s Office

Fani T. Willis is the district attorney for Fulton County. As a career trial lawyer with deep and broad prosecutorial experience, she has led over 100 jury trials and has prosecuted hundreds of murder cases. Willis has prosecuted many other serious crimes, including crimes against women and children. Her 19 years of experience as a prosecutor have given her a deep commitment to focusing her office’s prosecutorial efforts on the most dangerous offenders and removing them from society. She has also served as chief judge of the city of South Fulton

Education: Howard University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
First job: Cashier at Bradley’s department store in Laurel, Maryland
Most inspiring person: My dad, who was a Black Panther, civil rights activist, and criminal defense attorney.
Favorite book and movie: The Godfather


Atlanta 500: Pat Wilson

Photograph courtesy of individual

Pat Wilson
Commissioner
Georgia Department of Economic Development

As commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Pat Wilson leads the agency responsible for creating jobs and investment opportunities in Georgia through business recruitment and expansion, workforce development, and international trade and tourism, as well as the arts, film, and music industries. Before being appointed to the position in 2016 by Governor Nathan Deal, Wilson served as the organization’s chief operating officer, and was previously director of government affairs in the administration of Governor Sonny Perdue.

Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: Georgia has been named the number one state in the nation for business for nine consecutive years by Area Development magazine.
First job: Picking peaches
Few people know: I love karaoke.
Hobbies: Baseball, football, softball, and my kids’ sports at Northside Youth Organization
Favorite book: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson


Top Georgia Officials

  • Brian P. Kemp Governor
  • Burt Jones Lieutenant Governor
  • Chris Carr Attorney General
  • Brad Raffensperger Secretary of State
  • Jon Ossoff U.S. Senator
  • Raphael Warnock U.S. Senator
  • Hank Johnson Representative, 4th Congressional District
  • Nikema Williams Representative, 5th Congressional District
  • Rich McCormick Representative, 6th Congressional District
  • Lucy McBath Representative, 7th Congressional District
  • Andrew Clyde Representative, 9th Congressional District
  • Barry Loudermilk Representative, 11th Congressional District
  • David Scott Representative, 13th Congressional District

TRANSPORTATION

Atlanta 500: Allison Ausband

Allison Ausband
Executive Vice President, Chief Customer Experience Officer
Delta Air Lines

In this role, Allison Ausband oversees the end-to-end customer experience that includes the Innovation and Customer Experience teams and the 56,000 team members in Delta’s Airport Customer Service, In-Flight Service, and Reservations and Customer Care divisions who deliver those experiences. Previously, as senior vice president of in-flight service, Ausband led a global team of more than 20,000 flight attendants and supervisory and support personnel, as well as Delta’s onboard global food and beverage operations. Under Ausband’s leadership, Delta’s in-flight service team achieved all-time customer satisfaction scores. She previously served as vice president for reservation sales and customer care. Ausband began her career at Delta in 1985 as a flight attendant. She is also executive vice chair of the University of Georgia Foundation Board of Trustees.

Education: University of Georgia
Favorite travel destination: Saint Barthélemy
Nonprofit: I lead Delta’s efforts in the fight against human trafficking.
Who’d play me in a biopic: Diane Lane


Atlanta 500: Ed Bastian

Photograph courtesy of individual

Ed Bastian
CEO
Delta Air Lines

As CEO of Delta Air Lines since 2016, 24-year company veteran Ed Bastian helms a team of 80,000 global professionals. Under his leadership, Delta has become the world’s most awarded airline, named top U.S. airline by the Wall Street Journal, most admired airline worldwide by Fortune, and most on-time global airline by FlightGlobal. In 2018, Fortune named Bastian among the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. In 2019, he was elected to the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations. Finally, Bastian was named among the Top 10 CEOs of 2021 in Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards as a leader who excelled at supporting their people throughout a global pandemic.

Education: Saint Bonaventure University
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, New York
Few people know: I was 25 before I first stepped foot on an airplane.
Favorite book: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Nonprofits: Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, Polaris Project


Atlanta 500 Balram “B” Bheodari

Balram “B” Bheodari
Airport General Manager
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

As leader of the nation’s busiest airport, Balram “B” Bheodari oversees all facets of airport governance, including operations and a multibillion-dollar capital improvement program designed to pave the way for Atlanta’s growth over the next 20 years. Focused strategic planning, a comprehensive safety and security platform, and a full-bodied customer experience program are his priorities, in addition to completing the airport’s critical capital program on schedule and within budget. Bheodari is a retired Army aviator who has had an extensive career in aviation executive management. The native of Guyana rejoined the airport leadership team in 2016 after serving as the chief operating officer for the Houston Airport System. Before joining HAS, he served more than three years as the Atlanta airport’s deputy general manager.

Education: U.S. Army; Troy University
First job: High school teacher
Hobbies: Cricket
Favorite book: Good to Great by Jim Collins


Atlanta 500: Rahim Charania

Rahim Charania
Founder and Managing Director
Woodvale

Rahim Charania is the founder and managing director of Woodvale, an alternative investment firm based in Atlanta. Over a career that spans 20 years, Charania has formed and grown multiple organizations that have made significant impacts in their respective industries and in Georgia, including American Fueling Systems—one of the largest alternative fueling companies in the United States—and the media campus Three Ring Studios in Newton County. Charania serves on the board of Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, as well as on the advisory council of GSU’s Center for International Business, Education, and Research.

Education: Georgia State University (MBA)
Hometown: I was born in Pakistan but moved to the U.S. as a child, so I always consider my hometown to be Stone Mountain.
Best advice recieve: Listen more than you speak.
Lesson learned: When things are at their toughest and life seems to be hopeless, that is the time you need to work the hardest and when you need to recommit yourself to your goals and your vision.


Atlanta 500 Jai Ferrell

Jai Ferrell
Deputy General Manager and Chief Commercial Officer
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Jai Ferrell joined Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2015. While her professional impact is global in reach, her passion is making a granular impression on the communities she frequents. She lends her expertise as a board member for the Andrew & Walter Young YMCA and the Wilson Academy (DeKalb County). Core revenue-generating initiatives aside, Ferrell serves as the marketing lead for ATL’s human trafficking initiative, bringing awareness to the millions of passengers that travel to and through the airport annually. The Atlanta native’s award-winning career spans more than 15 years, including work in entertainment television, consumer products and sports contributions to WarnerMedia (formerly Turner), CNN, Major League Baseball, Viacom, and BET Networks.

Education: Spelman College, Georgia State University (MA)
First job: Summer camp counselor for the City of Atlanta’s Best Friend Program
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Grant Park


Atlanta 500 Roderick McLean

Roderick McLean
Vice President and General Manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions
Lockheed Martin

Roderick McLean is vice president and general manager of the Air Mobility & Maritime Missions line of business at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, responsible for the C-130 Hercules transport, the C-5 strategic airlifter, and other aircraft; McLean is also site general manager for the 5,000-employee Marietta facility. Since joining in 1994 as a radar systems engineer, McLean has held a variety of roles in the company, most recently as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group programs in Fort Worth, Texas. He serves on the board of directors for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Education: North Carolina A&T State University, Georgia Tech (MA), University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business (MBA)
Hometown: Jacksonville, North Carolina
First job: Drove a school bus in high school at 16 and a half years old
Hidden talent: I enjoy playing classical music on the piano.


Atlanta 500: Russell R. McMurry

Russell R. McMurry
Commissioner
Georgia Department of Transportation

In 2015, Russell R. McMurry was appointed by the State Transportation Board as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation—the $3.5 billion, almost 4,000-employee state agency responsible for building, maintaining, and operating the 10th-largest transportation system in the country. The Georgia DOT launched its podcast in November 2022 and McMurry talks about his life and career in the inaugural episode. McMurry began his career with the department in 1990 as an engineering trainee and has served in a variety of roles including construction project manager, district engineer, director of engineering, and chief engineer.

Education: Georgia Southern University
Notable achievement: Georgia Trend Georgian of the Year (2018)
First job: At 13, stocking shelves and taking inventory for a building-supply company
Few people know: I race motocross. I began riding at the age of 10 and still ride today.
Favorite book: The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough


Atlanta 500: Lynn Smith

Lynn Smith
Director of Real Estate, Property Management, and Development
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

As director of real estate, property management, and development for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Lynn Smith works with stakeholders to strategically improve the significance of the airport’s real estate holdings, mainly commercial real estate assets. She brings more than 25 years of commercial real estate experience to the role, having previously worked for Cushman & Wakefield and Paradigm Asset Management. In 2006, Smith effectively created the Global Diversity Summit, a conference aimed at providing a national networking forum for women and minorities in the commercial real estate industry.

Education: Columbia University, Southern Polytechnic State University
First job: Health food store
Why I chose this work: Curating and managing a major portfolio is challenging and rewarding.
Inspiring person: New York artist, educator, and consultant Ari Melenciano


UTILITIES

Atlanta 500: Michael Braswell

Michael Braswell
President, Retail Energy
Southern Company Gas

Michael Braswell is president of retail energy for Southern Company Gas, responsible for ensuring the expansion and continued success of the company’s retail energy operations in multiple states. Braswell is also CEO of SouthStar Energy Services, which serves nearly 700,000 customers; in Georgia it conducts business as Georgia Natural Gas. A Dunwoody native, he has more than 25 years of experience in the natural gas industry and has worked in both regulated and nonutility environments.

Education: Georgia Tech, Georgia State University (MBA)
First job: At the Georgia Tech Research Institute while I was a student at Georgia Tech
Hobbies: I’m a bicycling and exercise enthusiast.
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Favorite travel destination: Antigua


Atlanta 500: Pedro Cherry

Pedro Cherry
President and CEO
Atlanta Gas Light

Pedro Cherry, president and CEO of Atlanta Gas Light, is an energy-industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in finance, operations, external and governmental affairs, customer service, and economic and business development roles in domestic and international arenas. A native of Windsor, North Carolina, Cherry took the helm of Atlanta Gas Light in August 2020. Prior to that, he spent almost 10 years in various positions at Georgia Power, rising to the position of executive vice president of customer service and operations.

Education: Auburn University (MBA)
First job: Picking tobacco on the farms of North Carolina in the summer
Best advice received: Always be a student of the business.
Favorite hobbies: Golf, traveling, watching college and professional sports
Favorite Atlanta restaurant: Canoe
Charities: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Zoo Atlanta


Atlanta 500: Bentina Chisolm Terry

Bentina Chisolm Terry
Senior Vice President, Customer Strategy and Solutions
Georgia Power

Bentina C. Terry is senior vice president for Customer Strategy and Solutions for Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company. Terry is responsible for operations, sales, customer service, and economic and community development, as well as external affairs activities for 1.4 million customers across metro Atlanta and statewide responsibility for Georgia Power’s work in underserved communities. She began her career at Southern Company in 2001 and has held a variety of roles within the business. Board memberships include the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Leadership Atlanta, and the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Education: North Carolina State University, University of Michigan Law School (JD)
Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Notable achievements: First senior African American officer in two major Southern Company subsidiaries and the first woman in several officer positions


Atlanta 500: Tom Fanning

Photograph courtesy of individual

Tom Fanning
Chairman, President, and CEO
Southern Company

A native of Sandy Springs, Tom Fanning has been chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company since 2010. He’s worked for the energy giant for more than 38 years, holding 15 different positions in eight business units—most recently as chief operating officer, responsible for Southern Company’s generation and transmission, engineering and construction services, research and environmental affairs, system planning, and competitive generation business units. Previously, Fanning was president and CEO of Gulf Power.

Education: Georgia Tech (MA)
First job: Financial analyst
Hidden talent: I have coached youth sports in Atlanta for decades and was the 2018 recipient of the CEO Coach of the Year Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Football Coaches Foundation.
Favorite travel destination: Maine


Atlanta 500: Kimberly S. Greene

Kimberly S. Greene
Chair, President, and CEO
Southern Company Gas

Kimberly Greene is the chair, president, and CEO of Southern Company Gas, the leading natural gas company in the industry. She ensures the safe delivery of natural gas to more than 4.2 million utility customers in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, and Virginia. In addition, she oversees the nonutility businesses that deliver energy-related products and services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations, including gas pipeline investments and storage and fuels. She is a strong advocate for emerging technologies, innovation, and STEM-related education. Greene serves as an oil and natural gas liaison colead for the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council, the principal liaison between the federal government and the energy sector on security issues. She is a member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.

Education: University of Tennessee, University of Alabama at Birmingham (MS), Samford University (MBA), Harvard Business School (AMP)


Atlanta 500: Kevin Greiner

Photograph courtesy of individual

Kevin Greiner
President and CEO
Gas South

Kevin Greiner has served as Gas South’s president and CEO since the company’s founding in 2006. Gas South is one of the Southeast’s largest energy marketers, providing natural gas to more than 425,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in competitive markets in 14 states. Gas South also operates a growing wholesale energy marketing operation and is an owner/investor in several solar energy projects. Since its founding, Gas South has doubled its customer base, while growing its sales volumes and workforce by 400 percent. In 2020, Gas South announced the acquisition of Infinite Energy, which more than doubled Gas South’s revenues to nearly $1 billion. The merged company is the largest retail natural gas provider in competitive markets in the southeastern U.S.

Education: Wesleyan University, University of Michigan (MBA, MS)
Notable achievement: YMCA of Metro Atlanta Volunteer of the Year (2017); board chair there in 2021
First job: Working in a bagel shop on Long Island


Atlanta 500 Venessa Harrison

Venessa Harrison
President
AT&T Coastal States

As president of AT&T’s Southeast Coastal Region, Venessa Harrison is responsible for developing the overall strategic direction of AT&T’s public policy, economic development, and community engagement activities across the states of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Named to her current position in 2022, Harrison works closely with state and local policymakers and business and community leaders to foster an environment that welcomes investment and innovation, focuses on bringing new technologies that drive innovation and create jobs, and provides educational and economic opportunities that empower to improve the quality of life for all. Prior to her current position, Harrison served for three years as president of Georgia and six years as president of AT&T North Carolina. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Harrison began her telecommunications career as a telephone operator.

Education: University of Phoenix
First job: Employed in the utility billing department of the city of Raleigh, North Carolina
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: Always be authentic and remember: Girls compete, women empower.


Atlanta 500: Michael L. Smith

Photograph courtesy of individual

Michael L. Smith
President and CEO
Oglethorpe Power

Michael L. Smith has served as president and CEO of Oglethorpe Power, one of the largest energy producers in Georgia, since 2013. He previously worked for Georgia Transmission as senior vice president and chief financial officer, and later as president and CEO. Prior to that, he was the first executive director of the Committee of Chief Risk Officers, a non-profit trade association incorporated in 2002 to compile best practices and standards for risk-management activities for the energy industry.

Education: Louisiana State University (MBA)
First job: Worked offshore in Gulf of Mexico oil fields
Favorite book: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Lesson learned: Every problem has a solution.
Favorite travel destination: Ireland


Atlanta 500 Christine WhitakerChristine Whitaker
President, Central Division
Comcast

Christine Whitaker is president of Comcast’s Central Division, headquartered in Atlanta. The division is home to approximately 21,000 Comcast employees with more than 20 million combined video, high-speed internet, and voice customers throughout the 12 states that comprise the Central Division. A 25-year veteran of the cable industry, Whitaker most recently served as senior vice president of finance and administration for Comcast’s Northeast Division. Whitaker has been repeatedly named one of the Most Powerful Women in Cable by Cablefax: The Magazine and recognized as a Wonder Woman by Multichannel News. Whitaker has completed executive education programs for telecommunications through Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Education: George Mason University
Hometown: Washington D.C.
Best advice received: From Ginni Rometty, former IBM chairman, president, and CEO: “The ideas of growth and comfort do not co-exist. If you are going to grow, you will be uncomfortable.”


Atlanta 500 Christopher C. Womack

Christopher C. Womack
Chairman, President, and CEO
Georgia Power

Chris Womack was named chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, in 2021. He leads Georgia Power in serving its 2.6 million customers across the state. Prior to his current role, he served as executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company. The Greenville, Alabama, native joined Southern Company in 1988 and has held several leadership positions within Southern Company and its subsidiaries. Prior to joining Southern Company, Womack worked on Capitol Hill for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. A member of the board of directors of Essential Utilities Inc. and East Lake Foundation, Womack also serves on the national board of the First Tee. In 2022 Atlanta Business Chronicle named Womack one of its Most Admired CEOs.

Education: Western Michigan University, American University (MPA)
First job: Capitol Hill legislative aide
Hobbies: Fishing, hunting, gardening


LEGENDS

Nathan Deal
Deal served as a prosecutor, judge, state senator, and U.S. congressman for Georgia’s 9th District before being elected Georgia’s 82nd governor in 2010 and reelected in 2014. Under his leadership, Georgia was recognized as the top state for business five years in a row. Deal’s tenure was marked by efforts in transportation, criminal justice reform, and education reform.

Pat Epps
In 1965, Epps bought a small fixed-base operation at DeKalb Peachtree Airport and launched Epps Air Service. He has grown the original facility into a hub serving local and international businesses. His many honors include the National Business Aviation Association’s American Spirit Award and lifetime achievement award. Epps has also been inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.

Shirley Franklin
Inaugurated in 2002, Franklin became Atlanta’s 58th mayor. She was not only the city’s first female mayor, but also the first African American woman to helm any major Southern city. A former protégé of mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, she helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta. She received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2005.

Keisha Lance Bottoms
In 2018, Bottoms took office as Atlanta’s 60th mayor—only the second woman to hold the city’s highest municipal government seat. She’s also the only mayor in city history to have been elected to all three branches of government, serving previously as a judge and city councilmember. She is currently a senior advisor to President Biden on public engagement.

Patrise Perkins-Hooker
Formerly the county attorney for Fulton County, Perkins-Hooker is now an administrative partner with Johnson & Freeman, LLC. In 2014, she became the 52nd president of the State Bar of Georgia—the first African American and third woman to fill that role.

Kasim Reed
Reed served two terms as Atlanta’s 59th mayor, beginning in 2010. Prior to that, he spent 11 years as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, first elected in 1998 as a state representative, then serving from 2002 to 2009 in the state Senate. He is now a partner with the Squire Patton Boggs law firm.

Leah Ward Sears
Now in private practice with Smith, Gambrell & Russell, Sears was the first woman to serve as a judge on the Superior Court of Fulton County. Four years later she was appointed, and then elected, to become a justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia—the first woman and youngest jurist ever to receive that title. From 2001 to 2005, she became the presiding justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, eventually being named chief justice.

Andrew J. Young
A protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Young was a leader of the SCLC. He helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was Georgia’s first Black congressman since Reconstruction. President Carter tapped him to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served two terms as mayor of Atlanta and helped bring the 1996 Olympics here. His accolades have included the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morehouse College’s Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership is named for him, as is Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Advertisement