City Government May 23,  2016 -  Atlanta -  During a more than hour long press conference Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed talked at length on a number of topics including personnel decisions that included the  manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the watershed commissioner, the future of Park Atlanta, and Qatar Airlines.  BOB ANDRES  / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Published on May 23rd, 2016 |

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Reed’s press conference fails to provide reasons for firing 2 department heads

Mayor Kasim Reed called a media briefing and press conference Monday morning that was billed as his explanation of the firings of the Watershed Management commissioner and the airport

Miguel Southwell, fired general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Miguel Southwell, fired general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

general manager on Friday. The hour-long session essentially failed to provide the reasons for either person’s ouster.

On Friday, Reed announced the firing of firing of Miguel Southwell, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Then on Saturday the announcement came that Reed also had fired Department of Watershed Management Commisioner Jo Ann Marcina late in the day on Friday.

In essence, what Reed told the media Monday was that he wants a renewed focus on customer service both at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and within the city’s Department of Watershed Management. He did not discuss the exact circumstances of the firings, citing a concern for exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Dist. 7 Councilman Howard Shook, who attended the news conference, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that council members were supposed to get a closed-door briefing Monday, but that fell through. When asked what he learned, Shook replied: “I learned you could invite people to a press conference and then say you weren’t going to answer any questions about the reason they showed up.”

Reed did say, “Things could be working better….Their departments could be managed better.” The mayor also stated, “I am very slow to let external forces cause me to lose a member of my team.”

“The bottom line is that we chose to go our separate ways,” Reed said, according to Fox5 Atlanta. “But the people of Atlanta deserve an explanation of who will run two of the city’s most important operating units and why I have chosen those people to do so.”

Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina was also fired

Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina, who was also fired.

The mayor said he wants to focus on improved customer service. “We are not slowing down, we are speeding up,” said Reed, according to CBS46. “The people of Atlanta deserve a government that works as hard as they do.”

Reed told the media at the Monday meeting, “The decisions we made together Friday are about the future.” He said he would not discuss the details involved in each firing.

The mayor said he will meet with Atlanta City Council members and give them a briefing on his decisions and how his administration will move forward. He wants the people of Atlanta to know they are in good hands.

“We are going to have results or we are going to have change,” said Reed.

According to statements from the mayor’s office since last Friday, Roosevelt Council will serve as interim airport GM, while William Johnson, Atlanta’s new deputy COO, will serve as interim watershed commissioner.

For Johnson’s background, check BuckheadView’s earlier story by clicking here.

William M. Johnson, named interim head of Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management.

William M. Johnson, named interim head of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management.

Council, who has worked in various areas at City Hall over the years, is a financial person. He has virtually no experience in the aviation industry, except as CFO working at the airport for Southwell.

The airport has been plagued in recent weeks by long lines at TSA checkpoints, all coming at the same time as what is expected to be a record-setting travel schedule for the world’s busiest airport.

At the press conference, Reed said that he was upset about the long lines at the airport, but added that it was a “layering” of factors contributing to his decision on the airport manager.

Roosevelt Council who takes over interim control of Atlanta's airport.

Roosevelt Council, who takes over interim control of Atlanta’s airport.

In March, Reed announced a $6 billion airport capital expansion program, which includes plans to build two new domestic parking decks, add five additional gates to Concourse T, construct a sixth runway, and invest more than $900 million in a new international concourse.

“Our airport is the most significant economic generator in the state,” he said. “We’re going to do every single thing we can do, and it’s got to have urgency to it.”

In response to a question by Morse Diggs of WAGA-TV, Mayor Reed reportedly did not commit that Johnson and Council would be in their respective new positions and running these two departments for the one and a half years remaining in the mayor’s term in office.

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