Benfield named Atlanta’s first chief resilience officer

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield has been named chief resilience officer for the city of Atlanta.

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield has been named chief resilience officer for the city of Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is getting some help in planning for the city’s future and it’s on someone else’s dime.

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, the city’s director of sustainability, is being promoted to chief resilience officer, a newly created position designed to help Reed connect the dots on multiple subjects, such as transportation, infrastructure, food resiliency and economic opportunity.

The new position is a product of Atlanta's appointment to the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities network. The organization, which will fund the $160,000 a year position for two years, offers financial and logistical support to metro areas trying to take a long view of what they will look like in the 21st Century.

“The idea is that you have someone who wakes up every day thinking about the short-, medium- and long-term response to stressers that impact cities,” Reed said.

Atlanta landed the designation — about 350 cities apply each year with just over 30 chosen — based on its push to improve the quality of life of residents, including turning abandoned railroad tracks into Atlanta BeltLine, encouraging sustainable building practices and creating a new reservoir to give the city a 30-day supply of drinking water.

“Stephanie has done an excellent job leading the sustainability efforts and so she has gained the confidence of a broad number of partners that are essential to executing the role of chief resilience officer,” Reed said.

Benfield said resilient cities work together and offer each other best practices, a critical advantage at a time of rapid change on everything from climate challenges to transportation issues.

“What’s critical to this role is managing and also leveraging partnerships,” Benfield said. “We also look to the corporate and philanthropic communities to support the efforts because having the support and power of the Rockefeller Foundation is going to help us leverage additional partnerships.”

Benfield will help select a replacement for her sustainability role with the city.