Westside Future Fund names longtime insider to top post

John Ahmann, a longtime behind-the scenes-player in Atlanta political circles and a key fundraiser for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, has been named the head of the Westside Future Fund.

Ahmann’s appointment to the organization, created to spearhead revitalization of the communities near the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, follows the abrupt departure of its inaugural executive director last month.

He’s currently the executive director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a group of CEOs, philanthropic and academic leaders that works with the mayor’s office on major city projects. The Westside Future Fund was created by Reed and ACP in 2014.

In his current role, he is often tapped to raise funds for political campaigns and city initiatives, such as the 2015 infrastructure bond referendum get-out-the-vote effort. Ahmann is credited with quietly helping former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin acquire the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. personal papers and with helping launch the Atlanta Beltline. Ahmann previously worked for the Metro Atlanta Chamber and was a Decatur schools boardmember.

In a statement Monday, Reed said that Ahmann’s years of working with Atlanta’s political, community and business leaders played a role in his hiring. “He is committed to the public good and his dedication to improving educational and economic opportunities for our city’s residents will be invaluable,” Reed said.

The appointment brings Ahmann, the ultimate Atlanta insider, into the forefront. As executive director, he’s expected to marshal philanthropic, corporate and city-led efforts to improve the quality of life in some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

In an interview Monday, Ahmann said the Westside Future Fund has long-term goals that include improving the area’s employment rate, raising median household incomes, reducing crime and increasing educational attainment levels.

“The real success of the effort will be, when people look back 15 years from now, are they living better lives?” he said.

Richard Dugas, CEO of PulteGroup and chairman of the Westside Future Fund, said he believes there are two competing objectives: long-term planning and short-term wins. “We have to do both in concert,” he said, adding that 2016 “is definitely the year we want to get tangible work done.”

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