1941 – 2014
Harry West, former executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission (1973 to 2000), died Monday, July 14 at Emory University Hospital from a serious lung infection.
Mr. West was the longest-serving executive director in ARC’s history and is credited with building stronger ties among community leaders and fostering a regional approach to tackling metro Atlanta’s most challenging issues. He was 72.
"Harry West's legacy to the Atlanta Regional Commission and to the Atlanta region is immeasurable,” said Doug Hooker, current ARC executive director. “He developed programs and created a sense of regional connectedness, which still reverberate positively today. More importantly, he had a vision, a dedication, and a high set of standards, which will continue to propel metro Atlanta far into the future."
Among his many accomplishments, Mr. West aggressively pursued efforts to ensure adequate water resources for the Atlanta region, as well as protection for the Chattahoochee River corridor. He conceived and launched the Regional Leadership Institute in 1991, which has graduated some 1,500 leaders from the immersion program on key regional issues. Mr. West also launched the annual LINK city visits program (Leadership, Involvement, Knowledge and Networking) to learn how others are dealing with similar urban challenges, and he spearheaded the 16-year-old regional youth leadership program, Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC).
In the mid-1980s, during West’s tenure, ARC also began conducting reviews of development proposals of a certain size to determine the potential impacts to the region’s water supply, transportation capacity, air quality and other infrastructure. The “Developments of Regional Impact” review was later instituted statewide in the Georgia Planning Act of 1989.
In 1991, Mr. West led the largest collaborative visioning and planning effort ever conducted in the United States as of that time, known as VISION 2020. It sought to provide a new style for community decision-making in the Atlanta region by creating a shared future vision through extensive citizen participation. Many other American communities have copied the VISION 2020 initiative.
“Working closely with Harry West for 15 years, I was inspired by his ability to do what was best for the Atlanta region, even if it was the most difficult and politically treacherous approach,” said Julie Ralston, director of ARC’s Center for Strategic Relations. “Where solutions seemed impossible and answers ambiguous, Harry would always determine a clear and viable approach and move forward with courage and conviction.”