Mar 6, 2019
Women in Public Affairs to Know: Ann Hanlon
This interview is part of a series on “Women in Public Affairs to Know,” by the McGuireWoods Consulting Women in Public Affairs initiative. To learn more about the initiative or recommend a woman for a future interview, please visit our website.
As Executive Director for the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCIDs), Ann Hanlon is in charge of the organization’s daily operations, as well as its investments in transportation infrastructure.
Ann was honored as the “Woman of the Year” by the Women’s Transportation Seminar Atlanta Chapter in November 2016. In April 2015 and again in 2017, Governor Nathan Deal appointed Ann to the Board of Directors for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority where she serves on the Projects and Planning committees. Ann was named a “Notable Georgian” by Georgia Trend Magazine in 2017, one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Women Who Mean Business” in 2015 and as one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s “40 under 40” in 2012.
The interview below was conducted by Ashley Groome, senior vice president and director of McGuireWoods Consulting’s Georgia state government relations team.
Question: Can you tell me about your overall experience in government affairs, your experience in your job now and how you got there?
Ann Hanlon: I’m the executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (CID). It’s a special purpose tax district that contains commercial property owners who pay an additional assessment. So, above and beyond what they pay in property taxes, they voluntarily assess themselves an additional amount and those dollars go into a special fund called the CID. We’re able to use those dollars to invest in public infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges and sidewalks.
I’ve been working in the CID space now for about 14 years, and I got my first political experiences growing up in South Georgia. My grandfather was the mayor of my small town of Waycross, so I think that was probably my first taste of public affairs, politics and public service. I always had a heart for it. I grew up Catholic, so that gives you the tug of public service and feeling committed to giving back to others. After I graduated from Notre Dame, I worked for a healthcare consulting firm in the research and development department, but also did a some public affairs for them. It was a start-up at the time, and I think that’s when I really started to understand the power of lobbying. The company at the time was able to lobby the federal body that accredits hospitals and become accredited, which made their valuation go through the roof. That was when I understood the power of effectively communicating to policymakers.
I moved back to Georgia to get an MPA in Public Administration from Georgia State while I was working at the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). When I was at ARC, I worked in a division that does not even exist anymore, but was the Local Government Services Division. We helped create the Regional Leadership Institute, and provided outreach to all local governments – 13 metro Atlanta counties.
I got to get in the car and drive to Gwinnett and Henry and Fayette and Cobb and meet all the mayors and county commissioners and Chamber of Commerce presidents. This gave me the opportunity to understand how Atlanta works as a region. From there, I came into the CID world. I started as a project manager, and then was recruited to help start the North Fulton CID.
It was truly a start-up—we didn’t have a website or a logo or anything—certainly not any projects. It was really cool to be there for the very beginning and help build the foundation.
Finally, I came into my current role in the summer of 2017. I live in Dunwoody, and I’m familiar with the market. I live here, my kids go to school here, I go to church here and I happen to think it’s the best market in Atlanta. It’s also one of the biggest and oldest CIDs, so for me it was a really great opportunity. It’s a lot of public affairs, a lot of government relations, but also some project management. We get to build things, and I’m able to interact with a lot of the policy makers, so for me it’s the best of all worlds.
Q: When we talk about companies that foster disruptive trends and innovation, how do you do that from a CID perspective?
Ann: I really think that’s where CIDs can actually thrive. We can be on that cutting edge of innovation because we can be a little more nimble than a traditional government. We are a semi-public agency, a blend between private and public. We do function with tax dollars, but we are not bound by all the same rules and regulations like a city or a county would be. We can get projects built in shorter periods of time than a government would. I really think we’re in a time now that things are changing so rapidly, and that’s where we can plug in.
Sandy Springs Senior Economic Developer Erica Rocker-Wills, Georgia
Department of Transportation External Affairs and
Communications Program Manager Jill Goldberg,
Parmenter Managing Principal John Davidson, Perimeter
Community Improvement District Executive Director Ann
Hanlon and Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal (Source: Bisnow)
A good example of this is electric scooters, companies like Jump, Lime, Bird – they’re looking at our market. I’ve communicated with all three of those companies and they want to break into the Perimeter market. As cities are figuring out the legislative framework on how that’s going to work, the CID can help them figure out what infrastructure they need. I think we can actually be a good bridge between the public sector and the private sector, particularly at a time when things are changing so quickly that it can be hard to for governments to keep up.
Q: How have you seen the public affairs community change in the last decade for women and working mothers?
Ann: Like everything else in the world, the landscape has changed and the people in the landscape are a lot more reflective of the communities that we serve. I see women in the room. I see women in the meetings and running the meetings and having a voice. I still think we have a good ways to go in terms of equal pay for equal work. Generally speaking, I think the industry is friendly to working mothers and women and men who want to make family and faith a priority in their lives. The flexibility of the industry is absolutely a positive thing. However, we need to work on recognizing that women are bringing the same amount of value if not sometimes more value in the public affairs space – especially because women tend to be good communicators and problem solvers.
Q: What are your greatest personal and professional accomplishments that you might want to share with the world?
Ann: One of the projects I’m most proud of is Encore Parkway Bridge in Alpharetta. That was a project I got to see from the creation to the finished product. We did an LCI (Livable Centers Initiative) study and identified the problem. The area around Northpoint Mall was aging, and we had to think of a way to revitalize the area. We identified the bridge project as a giant public infrastructure project that could really be the spark to light the flame to invigorate the area, and of course had a lot of people tell us it would never get built.
Eric Bosman, Kimley Horn, planner and landscape consultant for the North Fulton CID, Ann Hanlon, and Aaron Wadley, senior project manager with Atkins North America Inc. on the Encore Parkway Bridge (Source: northfulton.com)
We worked for years to put the funding together. We got the engineering done and it got built. I was there when we tore the old bridge down and was there when the new bridge was built. I was really proud. It was a beautiful product, and I see the development that it spurred. The first Top Golf in the state of Georgia is right there by the bridge. Three residential communities were put in an area that people thought residential would never go. Northpoint Mall is being revitalized every day. That’s the kind of thing I show my daughters. I took my daughters out there when the bridge was under construction. They saw the bulldozers and we took pictures. They picked up rocks, and when we ride under there every once in a while they’ll say, “There’s mommy’s bridge.” I wanted to show them that girls can build things, too.
I don’t need to take a lot of credit for it, because it was a huge team effort, but it’s something I’m really, really proud of, because we got it done, and it’s changed the community permanently.
Q: And lastly, what does winning mean to you in this business?
Ann: I really think that in the role that I’m in, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders at the CID. The property owners paying into the CID tax need to be happy with how we’re investing the money. We’re providing a public service because we’re investing in public infrastructure. I really think winning is when we’re able to achieve the happy result of getting the infrastructure built that our members want to be built (and that they’re paying for), that helps raise the property values of the commercial owners, and a happy by-product of that is the community also benefits from that infrastructure. The people who live in the area who are not paying into the CID, they get to drive on the roads and drive through the interchanges and walk on the sidewalks. So to me, winning is when you’re able to identify and execute projects that make your owners happy and that is healthy for the community.