For more than 25 years, John Ahmann has been driven by the determination to improve the way communities and institutions function in Atlanta. From his early days working in Washington, D.C. to his positions with private, governmental, and organizational entities in the Atlanta area — including his eight years as an elected school board official in Decatur — he has focused his energy on solving the big problems whose resolutions can ultimately change Atlanta’s trajectory. He has worked primarily behind the scenes, bringing together diverse stakeholders and managing initiatives through to fruition, and has had a hand in some of the region’s most important public policy initiatives and cross-sector collaborations. Along the way, John has built a vast network of individuals who are impacting Atlanta and its future.
John is a native son. He was born at Grady Hospital in Atlanta in 1965, was one of Paideia School’s first graduates in 1983, and earned his BA in Political Science from Emory University in 1987. After having moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for Representative Pat Williams of Montana and then Congressman Ben Jones of Georgia, he entered Yale School of Public Private Management in 1991 and graduated with seven letters of recognition in 1993.
Within months after returning to Atlanta, John was hired by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as the Program Coordinator of Government Relations. He was soon promoted to Manager of Federal and State Government Relations where he worked with officials from four federal government offices, including the White House. Following the 1996 Olympic Games, John worked at Edington & Wade, a public affairs firm, and then Georgia’s Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism (GDITT, now the Department of Economic Development), where he led and managed strategic planning teams. From there he moved into GDITT’s newly created position of Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Research.
In 2000, John was hired by the Metro Atlanta Chamber to serve as its Senior Vice President of Community Development. There he oversaw the Chamber’s initiatives regarding transportation, education, arts and culture, the environment, and legislative affairs. In 2003, John bought the majority interest in a local public affairs firm, and in 2006 he established Ahmann, Inc. While in private practice in 2004, John began his engagement as the outsourced Executive Director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress (ACP), a group of top CEOs and university presidents that advises and supports the mayor on priorities critical to Atlanta’s economic vitality. While with ACP, he was heavily involved in launching the Atlanta Beltline acquisition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Personal Collection and the 2015 Renew Atlanta Bond Program, and ACP’s Westside Redevelopment Task Force that lead to the launch of the Westside Future Fund. John is currently the Executive Director of the Westside Future Fund.
John has also been an elected public servant. He won his race for the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education in 2003, was re-elected in 2007 without opposition, and served until 2011. John was the first Paideia School alumni invited to join the Paideia School’s Board of Trustees where he served for four years.
John’s unwavering commitment to Atlanta and deep knowledge of specific areas such as education, economic development, infrastructure and local fiscal policy make him a unique presence in Atlanta’s change landscape. He is honored to serve the board of Westside Future Fund as its Executive Director.
Lessons from the Show
John talked to us about his life, career and passions and offered us many wonderful lessons that point us towards an authentic, happy and fulfilling life and career including:
- It is at intersections that interesting things happen, and at the intersection of public, non-profit and business that we can work to solve problems in public policy. Look for the intersections…;
- Taking responsibility for something beyond your home, and getting engaged;
- Be ready to follow your passion, even when you don’t know what’s coming next – which will often be the case! It can be scary, but it’s exciting and enormously rewarding. If you’re not ready to take the plunge, at least dip your toe in; it’s very different than a life in which we seek certainty.
You can contact John by email at email@example.com and you can find out more about his/her businesses at Westside Future Fund.
This is episode # 142