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Looking Back at RLI 2021

Atlanta — Feb 18, 2022

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was proud to welcome 43 leaders from metro Atlanta to the 2021 Regional Leadership Institute (RLI) class, where they participated in a week-long program to engage with some of the most salient challenges and opportunities facing our region. The class included professionals from a wide array of sectors, ranging from urban agriculture to energy to arts and culture. A complete list of 2021 RLI participants can be found at the bottom of this page.

Throughout the program, participants strengthened their leadership skills, built rapport with regional colleagues and together examined strategies for developing a stronger, more inclusive future for the metro region.

“The ARC’s Regional Leadership Institute experience is a great platform where leaders get to understand, dissect and collaborate on the intersection of resources needed in our communities,” said John Cornelius, Atlanta/Metro South Regional Director, Georgia Power, RLI Class of 2021

This year’s program focused on three key pillars – intersections, equity, and shared community, which were threaded across presentations, discussions, and workshops. The program also introduced expert hubs. Expert hubs allowed participants a chance to bring their expertise and connection to the subject matter more explicitly into the room. Another new addition to the program were policy action plans, where RLI participants met in small groups to review current initiatives and projects led by ARC staff and offer recommendations.

Culture Change Inspired by the Arts

This year’s program kicked off with a live performance and discussion by Out of Hand Theater.  The performance, “If You Build It,” focused on housing, affordability, and displacement. Underscoring the importance of the arts in building connection and understanding, the performance also demonstrated how housing was at the inflection point of so many other policy areas. Framing how they would approach the week, participants were challenged to commit to be courageous in their presence, listening and care for others.

The Impacts of Decision-Making

The week began with presentations focusing on the past and present. Dr. Calinda Lee, Head of Programs and Exhibitions, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Akira Drake Rodriquez, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, and Ryan Gravel, Founder and President, SIXPITCH, grounded their discussion by highlighting key planning decisions, policies and practices that shaped the region and created inequitable outcomes for many of its residents. With a focus on systems, Mike Carnathan, Managing Director, Research & Analytics, ARC (RLI 2013), helped participants see patterns of inequity across a range of different indicators from housing access and education to healthcare. The class looked at community data trends to understand evolving community needs and identities, noting that the region is increasing in diversity and growing its aging population.

Participants explored COVID-19’s impact on the region through multiple panels. Leaders discussed the personal, emotional and economic toll the pandemic has had, as well as the broader regional challenges that it exacerbated. While COVID-19 was foreground in many conversations, participants were also prompted to think about recovery and what it looks like to create an economy that works for all people.

The participants heard from subject-matter experts like Sarah Kirsch, Director of the Urban Land Institute, Sanjay Patel, Director of Strategic Projects with Soccer in the Streets and Bentina Terry, Senior Vice President for External Affairs and Community Engagement at Georgia Power Company (RLI 2017).

The program concluded with participants workshopping how to expand their sphere of influence. Participants reflected on the ecosystems they were currently a part of and identified ways to deepen and expand those networks to collective impact at a regional level.

“RLI allowed me to gain a broader perspective on the issues facing our region and the need to develop tangible solutions with an equity lens,” said Catherine Foster Rowell, Councilwoman, City of South Fulton and RLI class of 2021 alum. “The bonding and networking among program participants has also proven to be invaluable.” 

We are so grateful to the incredible class of 2021, and we are looking forward to seeing how they continue their work transforming our region in the years to come! 


RLI Class of 2021

 Durand Bailey  Director of Operations  Atlanta Music Project
 J. Olu Baiyewu  Urban Agriculture Director  City of Atlanta
 Irene Barton  Executive Director  Cobb Collaborative
 Eric Bell  Founder  AC Wyatt INC
 Leanna Brown  Director of Government Affairs  Metro Atlanta Chamber
 Maranie Brown  Associate Director, Program Management  T3
 Nick Byers  Senior Vice President  Saturn Freight Systems
 Eric Christ  Chief Operating Officer  ChronicCareIQ
 Ellyn Cochran  Senior Director, Early Learning and Development  United Way of Greater Atlanta
 Eshe Collins  Director of Programs  Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc.
 Joli Cooper  Executive Director  GreenLight Fund Atlanta
 John Cornelius  Atlanta/Metro South Regional Director  Georgia Power
 Rochelle Dennis  Chief Brand Strategist  Beak Consulting
 Lynn Deutsch  Mayor  City of Dunwoody
 Nadia Faucette  Vice President of Engineering  GreyStone Power Corporation
 Catherine Foster   –   Rowell  Councilwoman  City of South Fulton
 Siddiqa Gibson  Executive Director  Best Life, LLC
 Chantell Glenn  Program Associate  The Annie E. Casey Foundation
 John Helton  Executive Director  Atlanta CareerRise/United Way of Greater   Atlanta
 Shelbia Jackson  Director, DeKalb Film, Music & Digital Entertainment   Commission  Decide DeKalb Development Authority
 Terence Johnson  Faculty-J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership   Development  UGA
 Geoff Koski  President  KB Advisory Group
 Emily Lightner  Executive Director  Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/ Douglas   County
 Christina Martain  Director Service Strategy  Kaiser Permanente
 Chris McCord  Program Director  Moving in The Spirit
 Randy Meacham  Managing Director  Gwinnett Municipal Association
 Donna Shaw Murphy  Realtor/CEO  Donna Murphy Realty Group
 Katherine (Katie)   Pace-Quattlebaum  CEO/Executive Director  Southern Conservation Trust
 Sameer Patharkar  Partner  Lowe Engineers, LLC
 Dalia Racicne  District Attorney  Douglas County
 Raj Shah  Senior Regulatory Attorney and Policyholder Advisor  MagMutual Insurance Company
 Chris Sizemore  CEO  Creative Mischief
 Shirley Anne Smith  Executive Director  Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation
 Kimberly Spear  Major Gifts Officer  Clayton State University
 Rachel Sprecher  Partnership and Grants Manager  R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation.
 Ted Terry  Commissioner  DeKalb County
 Stephen Valrie  Client Partner –  Public Sector  Slalom
 Daisy Wall  Head of Revenue  Uber
 Karen Winger  Zero Vehicle Emissions Lead/PM  USP USA