Inside City Hall: Cabinet shakeup as 4 department heads out

Mayor Andre Dickens leaves a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Dickens announced an agreement had been reached with the Integral Group. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Mayor Andre Dickens leaves a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Dickens announced an agreement had been reached with the Integral Group. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

A weekly roundup of the most important things you need to know about Atlanta City Hall

It was mid-November, and one of your City Hall insiders asked then-candidate Andre Dickens during a debate if he planned to replace any existing cabinet members shortly after taking office.

“I have individuals in my head whose resignation (letters) I would ask for,” Dickens said during the Atlanta Press Club debate. “There will be only a few that I know of that I will retain.”

Since Dickens took office, we’ve been looking out for when that shakeup might happen, and who would be affected. We got answers last week, when we got word that four top department heads were leaving their posts: Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, Chief Procurement Officer Martin Clarke, Parks and Recreation Commissioner John Dargle and and Human Resources Commissioner Jeffrey Norman.

Over the last few weeks, we heard some of those names thrown around as possible casualties of the transition at City Hall. We’ll also note that it’s normal for some turnover when a new mayor takes over (Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made every cabinet member turn in their resignations 90 days into her term).

What’s significant is the areas where Dickens wants fresh leadership — he’s especially mentioned procurement as a department where he wanted to see reform. And as he was running for mayor, Dickens pushed back on rezoning proposals by Keane’s planning department. (Speaking of Keane, who is headed to Boise, Idaho, Thomas Wheatley at Axios Atlanta had a good piece looking back on his time in Atlanta.)

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Speaking of Dickens’ inner circle: His close network of advisors was rounded out on Friday when the mayor’s office announced it had hired Odie Donald as chief of staff.

Donald, a Douglass High and Georgia State grad, is returning to his native Atlanta after serving as city administrator for the Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government for the past 15 months.

According to local news reports in Augusta, Donald had a three-year contract there, and tensions ran high among the commissioners after the news was publicly announced.

“I just don’t understand what happened,” one commissioner said. “It seems to me like maybe he’s in a hurry to get back to Atlanta.”

Before he starts his new City Hall gig Feb. 28, his TEDxCollierHeights Talk from early 2020 is worth a watch.

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ICYMI: Team Dickens is confident that several long-stalled affordable housing developments will move forward after the mayor pitched a resolution to a years-long legal dispute between the city and a prominent developer last week. We’re now on the lookout for more specifics about the deal, and the breakdown in pricing for the new housing.

Also, the AJC’s Chelsea Prince has a writeup about the recent rash of nightclub shootings in Atlanta, and how Atlanta police are working on a plan to present the mayor’s office.

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Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks alongside Mayor Andre Dickens and Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks alongside Mayor Andre Dickens and Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks alongside Mayor Andre Dickens and Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Quote of the Week:

“I'm gonna announce when I'm coming here so you can guys have all your fun, but I'm gonna come from time to time to see that fun."

- Mayor Andre Dickens, talking to police recruits at a press conference

The quip occurred at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Unity Place, a new housing complex for police recruits in the English Avenue neighborhood. Officials hope the new facility improves police recruitment and officers’ connection to the community.

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Rodney Bryant greet each other as they arrive at the ribbon cutting for Unity Place, an apartment complex for Atlanta Police recruits, on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Rodney Bryant greet each other as they arrive at the ribbon cutting for Unity Place, an apartment complex for Atlanta Police recruits, on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Rodney Bryant greet each other as they arrive at the ribbon cutting for Unity Place, an apartment complex for Atlanta Police recruits, on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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The Atlanta City Council is mourning the death of Larry Dingle, the former clerk of council who worked for the city from 1969 to 1990.

“During his decades-long career as a police officer, the first African American Clerk of Council, and attorney, he was known as a considerable talent that received many honors and distinctions. We are so deeply grateful for his service to our city and extend our sympathies to his family and to all those who admired him,” the Council said in a statement Sunday.

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Council corner: The City Council meets at 1 p.m. Monday, and will consider legislation to add members to the still-dormant Public Safety Commission. The council is also expected to ask MARTA to give them a report on the funding for the expansion of the Campbellton Road Corridor and Greenbriar Transit Hub projects (more on that later).

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What’s coming up: The Climate Reality Project is hosting the mayor to hear about his climate plan Monday at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday at 5 p.m. councilmembers Marci Collier Overstreet, Antonio Lewis and Andrea Boone are hosting a town hall following MARTA’s announcement that it plans to build a bus rapid transit line — instead of light rail — along southwest Atlanta’s Campbellton Road. The officials are pushing for more investment in the corridor.

Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback, story ideas, tips or City Hall insider info, please reach out — you can email us at wilborn.nobles@ajc.com and jdcapelouto@ajc.com, or find us on Twitter, @jdcapelouto and @WilNobles.

WILBORN NOBLES III

Wilborn P. Nobles III covers the Atlanta mayor's policies for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wil (not "Willie" or "William") previously covered Baltimore County government at The Baltimore Sun, but he never finished "The Wire." He also covered education for the Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans, so he tries to avoid discussions about football. Wil used to play tuba for his high school marching band, but he eventually put down his horn to intern at The Washington Post. The Louisiana State University graduate enjoys gardening, comedy, and music.

Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com

J.D. CAPELOUTO

J.D. Capelouto is a local news reporter covering City Hall and all things intown Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His work focuses the City Council, neighborhood issues, public safety, housing and transportation. J.D. was born and raised in Atlanta and has lived in the city all his life, except for four years at Boston University, where he studied journalism and learned how to dress for cold weather. He’s been with the AJC since 2018, and has previously written for The Boston Globe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When he’s not reporting or scrolling through Twitter, J.D. enjoys pop culture podcasts, “Survivor” and visiting various pools around Atlanta.

Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com