Atlanta mayor hires new grants director

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has appointed Deborah Lonon as commissioner of the city’s Grants and Community Development Department.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has appointed Deborah Lonon as commissioner of the city’s Grants and Community Development Department.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday appointed Deborah Lonon, former Assistant County Manager for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, to serve as the Commissioner of Atlanta’s Department of Grants and Community Development, a senior-level cabinet position.

Lonon will take over a troubled department that the mayor created earlier this year to help the city oversee the administration’s of federal grants, which has is subject two federal investigations.

One of those investigations is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and found chronic mismanagement of a program that subsidizes rent for people living with AIDS.

The last person to oversee the department, P. Nigel Roberts, resigned in May after just four months on the job, with little explanation for his departure.

“Deborah’s community development experience, knowledge of regulations and passion for our city will help drive our Administration’s transformation of grants management and community development in Atlanta,” said Bottoms in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with her to further advance our goals toward building more affordable, equitable and resilient communities.”

Before becoming assistant county manager in Athens, Lonon served as the Director of the Athens-Clarke County Housing and Community Development Department and as an assistant attorney with the county attorney’s office.

In recent years, the Atlanta has lost millions in federal grant money because it failed to spend it in time.

In August, Atlanta’s WorkSource Development agency lost a $4 million federal grant to provide technical training to unemployed, underemployed, low-skilled and low-wage workers, after repeated warnings from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In late 2018, the city of Atlanta lost about $1 million in HUD grant money that could have been used for affordable housing, also because it didn’t award the money on time.

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