Published on May 21st, 2016 |1
Reed ousts Macrina as head of Watershed Management; sends airport head packing
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued the following statement: “I would like to thank JoAnn Macrina for her work on behalf of the residents of Atlanta and I wish her well moving forward in her career. The Department of Watershed Management provides critical services to Atlanta residents and businesses, and I will ensure that it has effective leadership who will deliver operational excellence.”
Meanwhile, Macrina will be replaced by William Johnson, the city’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer, who will serve as interim commissioner. Johnson joined the Reed Administration as Deputy Chief Operating Officer in May. He previously served as the Director of the Department of Transportation for the city of Baltimore.”I am pleased to welcome William Johnson to our senior team,” said Mayor Reed. “I am confident that his leadership and operating experience in the public and private sectors will enhance our Administration’s focus on operational efficiency and customer service.”
The release of Macrina came just two days after BuckheadView first reported on Wednesday, May 18: “Word spilling onto the streets is that Mayor Kasim Reed is actively looking for a replacement for Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina, as the head of DWM and her staff were skewered during City Council committee meetings in recent weeks.”
The Wednesday, May 18, BuckheadView report went on to say that it has become increasingly apparent that Macrina and her department provide only the most basic information to the city’s Utilities Committee and City Council—withholding much—and council members have to specifically request each item of back-up information they want.
“We only get the information we specifically request,” Dist. 8 City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean told BuckheadView. Adrean is a member of the Utilities Committee and Finance/Administration, both of which Macrina faced this past week.
To read the May 18 BuckheadView story, click here.
Macrina came to the city from DeKalb County, where she was deputy director of the county watershed management.
She replaced Rob Hunter, who stepped down from the watershed department amid complaints from residents and businesses about billing and inaccurate readings.
Meanwhile Macrina was just one of two top city department heads fired by Reed during a weekend purge; the other was the aviation general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Miguel Southwell.
Southwell has over 30 years experience in aviation and has overseen the airport’s combined budget of over $1 billion. The exact reason for the decision has not yet been disclosed. Roosevelt Council will serve as interim aviation general manager.
“I want to thank Mr. Southwell for his service to the City of Atlanta and the travelers at the world’s busiest passenger airport,” said Mayor Reed. “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport serves as our city’s and region’s dominant economic generator, and as such, I am committed to achieving maximum operational efficiencies and the highest level of customer service possible. I wish Mr. Southwell the best in the next chapter of his career.”
Southwell has additionally led the Atlanta team in executing a $6 billion master plan for airport development planned for the next 20 years.
Members of City Council reacted over the weekend to Macrina’s removal, but there were apparently no tears shed.
Dist. 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore, one of two on the council who voted against Macrina’s appointment five years ago, said the issues plaguing the department extend outside of city hall. “People have been wondering when the mayor would let her go for a long time,” Moore said. “This will probably be viewed in the public as a positive.”
The most recent controversy had to do with a $378,000 settlement with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division over more than 147 million gallons of sewage-tainted waste water that had spilled during the past seven years. “This, to me, a staggering breach of the public trust,” Councilman Howard Shook told Macrina at the meeting, then told her she owed the public an apology. Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean added: “I’m beginning to think we don’t have a very good relationship.” Macrina responded she owed no one an apology.
An internal audit in 2014 found that the department couldn’t account for more than 10,000 water meters, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing equipment, including an $80,000 backhoe.
But one of the specific items mentioned by Reed in his dismissal of Macrina had to do with travel expenses, which Shook questioned her about during budget hearings earlier this past week.
It seems Macrina and an aide in the department traveled to Abu Dabi for a global water summit and the trip cost the city more than $4,000. Shook felt the travel expenses were hidden in the budget and asked that travel expenses be a separate line item. That caused a major issue that the media latched onto.
Buckhead resident and At-Large Councilwoman Mary Norwood told BuckheadView Saturday night, “I am hopeful that we will have the leadership in that department that will understand and address the public health and property issues that have been plaguing our communities within the city for decades.”
Norwood added, “We need stronger leadership here. We have to fix this for the health and safety of our community.”
Robert Schreiber, who has followed all activities of the Department of Watershed Management for decades and has been a resource to BuckheadView’s editor for more than a dozen years, said this week’s change won’t solve the problems in Watershed Management.
“Removing Jo Ann Macrina won’t stop a 25-plus years of problems, which involves damaging Atlanta’s public health, the environment, and the financial damage to any ratepayer who pays any portion of a water/sewer bill to the city of Atlanta,” Schreiber said.
Considering the period of time during which Reed was rumored to be looking for a replacement for Macrina and when Johnson was hired by Reed, it could be possible that he was actually hired to replace Macrina in the first place.
As director of the city of Baltimore Department of Transportation, Johnson managed engineering and permitting services for the city. He also managed citywide snow and weather emergency operations. Prior to his service in Baltimore, Johnson held a key leadership role as prime contractor to the Florida Department of Transportation. In that role, he assisted local governments and private nonprofits in developing disaster plans, performing damage assessments and developing projects and funding sources for public facilities, infrastructure and utilities damaged by natural disasters.
Throughout his career, Johnson has developed and managed budgets in excess of $400 million, reduced customer complaints to state and local agencies to achieve a 96 percent customer satisfaction rate, managed municipal waste collection operations for a population of 1.5 million, and assisted with reverse osmosis/carbon filter tertiary and secondary treatment facility upgrades.
Johnson holds a master’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Mississippi.