Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (left) with Atlanta Watershed Commissioner Kishia Powell soon after Reed hired her in 2016.

Atlanta Watershed Commissioner Kishia Powell resigns

Atlanta Watershed Commissioner Kishia Powell has resigned to take another job in Washington, D.C. where she will serve as Chief Operating Officer for DC Water, the District of Columbia’s water utility.

The resignation was announced to Watershed employees in an email Wednesday, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms informed Atlanta City Council members of Powell’s decision Thursday.

“Kishia has been a fantastic leader,” Bottoms said. “We wish her all the best.”

Watershed is one of the city’s largest, and most important departments. It delivers water to more than 1.2 million customers in a handful of cities, including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and College Park. It has 1,382 full-time employees, and an annual budget of $600 million.

The email to departmental employees said Powell was stepping down to be closer to her family, and on Thursday she declined to say what new job she was taking. But Powell’s hiring was announced in a press release on the DC Water website late Thursday.

Reed hired Powell in 2016 to lead the department after firing Jo Ann Macrina. Powell came from Jackson, Miss., where her tenure as public works director was clouded by allegations that she tried to steer contracts to supporters of Jackson’s then-mayor, Tony Yarber.

Stephanie Coleman, Jackson’s former equal opportunity business manager, alleged in a 2017 federal lawsuit that Powell tried to direct others in a bid committee to support a proposal by a joint venture including Mitzi Bickers, a political consultant and pastor who has since been indicted in the Atlanta bribery scandal.

Powell was not a defendant in the lawsuit against the city. Coleman’s case, which centered around her termination, was settled out of court for $35,000, according to an article in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Powell has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said on Thursday that her exit had nothing to do with Bickers’ upcoming trial.

“I don’t know her,” Powell said of Bickers. “Please let positive be positive.”

Powell’s tenure in Atlanta has been free of controversy. Bottoms credited her with successfully navigating issues involving a billion-dollar federal consent decree imposed on the city to reduce repeated sewage overflows.

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