In this file photo from 2004, Richard Stogner, then-chief of staff to the DeKalb County CEO, sits in the Maloof Auditorium where county commission meetings take place. (Photo: RENEE' HANNANS HENRY/)
Photo: RENEE' HANNANS HENRY/AJC file/AJC
Photo: RENEE' HANNANS HENRY/AJC file/AJC

Richard Stogner, 76, influenced Atlanta politics, budgets for decades

Richard Stogner, a fixture in Atlanta politics who oversaw the financial aspects of Atlanta’s airport and managed the budget for the 1996 Olympics, died Sunday. He was 76.

Stogner’s political influence extended over four decades while he served as a high-level official in DeKalb and Fulton counties and served under four Atlanta mayors. He worked behind the scenes on projects related to many iconic Atlanta places and events, and worked under some of the most renowned — and infamous — local figures in recent history.

“Any time there was a storm in Atlanta, he would spend the night downtown making sure all the departments were doing what they needed to do,” his wife, Donna Newman Stogner, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitition. “He was always dedicated to the taxpayers. He felt like they should get their worth out of the dimes they spent.”

Richard Stogner (center) was a Tuesday night regular at Manuel's Tavern. (RENEE' HANNANS HENRY/2004 AJC file)
Photo: RENEE' HANNANS HENRY/AJC

His resume includes designing the concessions program for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport before the new terminal opened in 1980 during the tenure of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. As chief of economic development under former Mayor Andrew Young, he oversaw renovations and constructed the original financing package for Underground Atlanta’s revitalization effort.

In 1996, he was the deputy chief of finance for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, helping manage the Games’ $1.75 billion budget. He also negotiated the politically charged proposal of turning over Fulton’s Brown Field to Atlanta in 1991, when he served as Fulton County’s director of planning and economic development.

A DeKalb County native, Stogner then served as the executive assistant to former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, and returned to DeKalb years later to manage county operations for one year without pay.

Stogner was drafted in the U.S. Army for several years.
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Johnson

He died surrounded by friends and family after a six-week battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He had previously beaten stomach cancer more than 20 years ago, after being given six months to live, his wife said.

The family is planning a “celebration of life” event in the coming months at Manuel’s Tavern, the intown pub known for attracting a political crowd. Stogner often spent Tuesday evenings there, Donna Newman Stogner said.

“Richard Stogner, one of Georgia’s tallest pines, has fallen,” Jones said in a statement. “He was a great public servant and a great American.”

Before getting involved in government, Stogner was drafted during the Vietnam War, and served as a staff sergeant for several years at a U.S. Army base in Germany. He received degrees from Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, and was a voracious reader, his wife said. He once told a friend that he enjoyed reading so much that “if there’s not anything around to read, I’ll pick up a cereal box and read it,” she said. He was fascinated by ancient Roman history, loved crossword puzzles and hated Atlanta traffic.

Richard Stogner, who returned to be DeKalb County's chief operating officer, answers questions from the media in 2012. (VINO WONG/AJC)
Photo: Vino Wong/vwong@ajc.com

A 2010 AJC article described him as a behind-the-scenes political wiz who took on the role of “mediator and sometimes as instigator” during his time in government.

» READ MORE: Stogner nominated to DeKalb chief operating officer post

In 2009, he was a defendant in a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by former DeKalb County parks employees. At the end of the long-running case, a jury found Stogner, Jones, the former parks director and the county liable for damages. The jury said Stogner and others had created a hostile work environment, but then-county CEO Burrell Ellis dismissed any concerns over Stogner’s role in that case.

Stogner was known as a behind-the-scenes policy expert.
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Johnson

He returned to work in DeKalb County in 2010 to oversee day-to-day operations after the previous chief operating officer was fired for having an affair with a subordinate.

At his own request, he was not paid. Keeping governments fiscally responsible was a top priority for Stogner.

“He always liked innovative ideas, as long as they were in budget,” Donna Newman Stogner said. “Even in this house.”

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