Dec 10, 2022 - News

Axios Power Players: 9 influential people in Atlanta in 2022

Illustration of two rows of dominos falling with text overlaid that reads Power Players Atlanta.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Atlanta's power players have been shaping our city in 2022.

Methodology: We selected these power players using our own expertise, polling readers, and through interviews with influential people.

  • The unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising in any way.
  • Those who made the power list were not notified of their selection until publication.

ATL Scoop

Instagram news account

A screenshot of the ATL Scoop Instagram account
Screenshot: ATL Scoop/Instagram

ATL Scoop — an Instagram-centric news account that aggregates reader submitted videos of crime, craziness and whatever burning car is on the side of I-285 that day — is shaping a narrative of Atlanta for a generation hooked to their phones.

The big picture: The anonymously operated account has attracted nearly 700,000 followers and includes top politicos including the Atlanta police chief among its viewers.

Yes, but: We know someone's curating the feed. But we don't know who or how they make their editorial decisions (Axios' DM requests for comment went nowhere and its state business filings and trademark application link back to registration companies and lawyers).

Fani Willis

Fulton County district attorney

Fani Willis
Photo: Ben Gray/AP

Within her first few days on the job as the district attorney in Fulton County Fani Willis had to decide whether to pursue an unprecedented investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by former president Donald Trump and his allies in the 2020 election.

Driving the news: While the investigation was sparked by a now-infamous call Trump made to Georgia election officials asking them to "find" him the votes to win, it has broadened into a multi-year, wide-ranging probe.

What's next: After wrapping up witness testimony this year, Willis will make a big decision: whether to indict the former president.

Kevin "Coach K" Lee

Chief operating officer of Quality Control Music

Kevin "Coach K" Lee poses at a stylish bowling alley with Busta Rhymes, Quavo and Pierre "Pee" Thomas
Kevin "Coach K" Lee (left) with Busta Rhymes, Quavo and Pierre "Pee" Thomas at Bowlero Atlantic Station Photo: Prince Williams/Wireimage

Migos. Lil Yachty. Lil Baby. The hip-hop stars all have one thing in common: Quality Control Music co-founder and impresario Coach K.

Catch up quick: Coach K, whose real name is Kevin Lee, launched QCM with Pierre "Pee" Thomas in 2013, building it into a music industry powerhouse with his keen ability to spot under-the-radar rap talent like Quavo, Takeoff and Offset.

  • The low-key former college basketball player, who moved to the hip-hop capital to make his name, is also branching out: In 2019, he and Thomas co-founded Quality Control Sports to manage athletes like Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints.

Trey Kilpatrick

Chief of staff, Gov. Brian Kemp

Trey Kilpatrick
Photo: Courtesy of the Georgia Governor's Office

The governor's chief of staff is someone most Georgians can't recognize.

Why it matters: But Trey Kilpatrick's role is perhaps the most powerful unelected one at the state Capitol. And in 2023 in particular, when the state house and state senate will have new leadership, the governor and his office will be the holdover team with the most experience at the Capitol.

What we're watching: As Kemp's quintessential right-hand man, he'll play a big role in Georgia’s future policy-making, too.

Fay Twersky

President and director of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

A photo of a woman wearing a white blazer and red shirt sitting at a table
Photo: Courtesy of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

When Fay Twersky of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation calls, Atlanta nonprofits pick up the phone.

  • Home Depot co-founder Blank — the billionaire many times over who’s pledged to give away most of his wealth — and his grown children call the shots on gifts. But Twersky, who joined in 2021, guides the strategy and is the conduit to Atlanta's massive nonprofit community.

Of note: Twersky's resume includes positions at philanthropic heavyweights like the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Yad Hanadiv, the largest independent foundation in Israel.

Odie Donald, Lisa Gordon and Courtney English

Mayor Andre Dickens' executive team

Three headshots of City Hall leaders — two men and one woman
Composing Mayor Andre Dickens' brain trust are (from left) Odie Donald, Lisa Gordon and Courtney English. Photo: Courtesy of the City of Atlanta

On a daily basis, the mayor of Atlanta will be confronted with political battles, ribbon-cuttings, deal-making and probably one disaster. They need a brain trust to keep City Hall on offense and defense.

  • For Mayor Andre Dickens, that's a three-member team made up of chief of staff Odie Donald, chief operating officer Lisa Gordon and senior adviser Courtney English.

Details: In addition to keeping the city running, the trio advises Dickens on policy and politics ranging from public safety and affordable housing to Buckhead cityhood.

  • And although one might take the lead on particular issues, according to Axios' sources, Dickens expects them all to weigh in.

Oronike Odeleye

Artistic director, National Black Arts Festival

Oronike Odeleye
Photo: Courtesy of 10 Squared Agency

It's only been a month since Oronike Odeleye was named artistic director for the National Black Arts Festival, but she already has plans to take the organization to the next level.

Odeleye, an Atlanta resident, told ArtsATL that she wants to change the nonprofit’s funding so it doesn't have to rely on the "changing whim" of donors.

Before joining NBAF, Odeleye was the festival director for ONE MusicFest, which hosts a two-day music festival in Atlanta.

Of note: She's also the co-founder of Mute R. Kelly, a campaign to draw awareness to the former R&B music star's predatory behavior.

Jim Irwin

CEO of New City Properties

Portrait of Jim Irwin, CEO of New City Properties
Photo: Courtesy of New City Properties

One of Atlanta's most famous redevelopment projects, Ponce City Market, happened under the watchful eye of Jim Irwin, who as senior vice president of Jamestown Properties was instrumental in transforming the former Sears, Roebuck & Co warehouse in the Old Fourth Ward.

Now as CEO of real estate development firm New City Properties, Irwin oversaw the construction of 725 Ponce, a 370,000-square-foot office building overlooking the Atlanta Beltline's Eastside Trail.

Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood

Executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund

A woman wearing a hijab and glasses speaks into a microphone while sitting on a stage
Photo: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Georgia's Asian American and Pacific Islander voters are diverse and can be difficult to reach.

  • But Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, knew how to get them ballots and to the polls during Georgia's recent U.S. Senate election.

Why it matters: Every vote counts, and both parties put a priority on mobilizing AAPI voters.

By the numbers: Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country, and metro Atlanta’s AAPI population has more than doubled from 131,000 in 2000 to 301,000 in 2019, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Go deeper: See all 200 of Axios Local's Power Players in 2022

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