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Beltline CEO reportedly leaving post for Seattle job. Who should replace him?

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Brian McGowan has been at the helm of the transformative Atlanta project for less than a year

The new Beltline Eastside Trail as it wends through Cabbagetown.
The Beltline’s Eastside Trail extension, opened last September, has been a highpoint in recent years.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

It appears the top executive seat for Atlanta’s popular network of pathways and parks will soon be deserted.

After less than a year on the job, Beltline CEO Brian McGowan is reportedly stepping down and departing for Seattle, where a new gig awaits in economic development.

McGowan was tapped to lead the transformative, multi-decade project after former Beltline CEO Paul Morris vacated the post in August, following outcry over the agency’s failure to fulfill its affordable housing goals.

Now, McGowan has reportedly been hired as the first CEO for Greater Seattle Partners, a new business recruitment and development organization, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, which broke the news July 3.

McGowan’s imminent departure means Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom will soon have another crucial cabinet seat to fill; she also needs to find a new general manager for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out.

The Beltline’s next CEO will have much on his or her plate, as multiple trail construction projects move forward and MARTA’s board of directors continues to deliberate about divvying up transit expansion funds from the TSPLOST Atlanta voters approved in a 2016 referendum.

Less than a year as Atlanta Beltline chief, it looks like Brian McGowan is headed to a new job in Seattle. Which is a...

Posted by Thread ATL on Thursday, July 5, 2018

In May, the MARTA board unveiled its preliminary priority list for the $2.5 billion that could be used to build out Atlanta’s transit network, a mix of light rail and bus systems throughout the city.

Those additions, however, don’t satisfy advocates vying for a full circuit of light rail abutting the 22-mile loop to-be—the way the project was initially proposed.

Activist group Beltline Rail Now!, led by Beltline founder Ryan Gravel and Cathy Woolard, who spearheaded the project’s kickstart as Atlanta City Council President, has been fighting to see that transit promise kept.

At 6:30 p.m. on July 10, the day before the next MARTA board meeting, Beltline Rail Now! members will convene at Zoo Atlanta, “to share an alternative priority list for spending the $2 billion in new transit funding to ensure equity, coherent connections, and smart spending in the final priority list,” according to an email blast from Woolard.

BRN! activists are expected to bring their ideas to the board meeting thereafter.

Who will fill the project’s top job in this critical hour, however, is still up in the air. Neither the Beltline nor the City of Atlanta responded to Curbed Atlanta’s requests for comment. McGowan also declined to talk about the move when asked by the AJC.

Meanwhile, the urbanists at ThreadATL suggest that some observers favor Woolard as a candidate for the CEO position (a strong rival of Bottoms’s in last year’s mayoral race), although that’s unsubstantiated. Stay tuned.