Her children call her mom, but this influential Fulton County executive has recently earned a new title, especially in southwest Atlanta—Hometown Hero. Anna Roach accepted the role of Chief Operating Officer in 2018 after serving five years as the County's Chief Strategy Officer. Before that, she spent 14 years as a criminal defense attorney, served as an administrative law judge in New York City, and headed the Legal and Policy Unit in the Washington, D.C., Mayor's Office of General Counsel. Roach's background speaks for itself, but it's her consistent leadership and acumen in Fulton County that make her a standout power player here in Georgia.
Roach's list of accolades spreads long and wide, but her most recent undertaking, which involves responsibility for a $165M redevelopment of Fulton Industrial Boulevard, hit home for this South Fulton resident.
"Equally significant to the scale of the project is the fact that this redevelopment is in South Fulton County where I live,” exclaimed Roach.
"I have many occasions to drive down Fulton Industrial Boulevard as a part of my commute, and to know that I will have direct responsibility for changing the fabric and trajectory of that regional corridor is quite a feeling of personal satisfaction."
Boasting more than 1,000 businesses, 28,000 employees, and about 500 residents, the nearly 8-square-mile stretch will bring millions in tax revenue to Fulton County and the school district. By now, we have all had a chance to celebrate the annexation of a portion of the District into the City of South Fulton, so this thriving South Fulton City will also have an opportunity to grow its revenue with improvements to the district as well.
As the County's Chief Operating Officer, Roach has responsibility for this unique development project that encompasses projects that will benefit many of the county departments that report to her, including the airport, Police Department, the Emergency Management Department, and the Animal Control Division.
Four key projects anchor this redevelopment initiative: a $32M, state-of-the-art animal control facility, a regional public safety training center, $90M in airport improvement projects at the Fulton County Executive Airport, and an Emergency Operations Center co-located with the Aviation Center. These improvements are on the near-term horizon. South Fulton residents can look forward to 2021 groundbreaking ceremonies for many of these projects, complemented by millions in investments for blight removal with key areas prepped to attract developers.
"This project is probably the single most transformational development that will come to South Fulton," said Roach. "South Fulton is a canvas for development for a host of reasons, not the least of which is its proximity to the airport. The distinction of this development is the transformation it will bring to an area that has had a depressed reputation for the community."
This acquisition will tip the scales in the right direction as it brings great pride to the City as it continues to rise above the stigma with the help of dedicated stakeholders like Roach.
Speaking of scales and balance, one in Roach's position might struggle to find work-life balance, which is ideal for any working parent. Figuring out how to finagle your career, kids' schedules, family time, leisure, etc. can be a challenge, and having a demanding job such as Roach's is no exception. But this wife and mother of four, including three teenagers and a 6-year-old, manages to find harmony between her professional and personal life by being intentional. She tells us that she has learned to identify when she needs to take a step back and does things that fulfill her personally, like gardening, which is her personal favorite, and an occasional trip to the beach with her family.
"Successful management is nothing more than a consistent series of good choices," Roach explains. "Leading an organization (or a household) becomes less overwhelming with measured, thoughtful deliberation, and that's one solid way to ensure a consistent series of good choices."
Roach is an impetus of inspiration and empowerment for girls and women aspiring to her level of success and happiness. We wanted to pick her brain a bit to understand her feelings about the status she holds.
Do you feel as if you have a special responsibility being the first African American COO of Fulton County?
It feels like a responsibility beyond the boundaries of the role itself. The most critical piece of that for me is that I am a role model for my girls. They understand very much mommy's job and the scale of my responsibilities. I also know there are women in the workforce who now know that it is not beyond their reach. I'm not sure there's any magic to me necessarily. I am highly educated and capable, and there's no shortage of highly educated and qualified Black women in this world. We need courageous allies to provide the opportunity for them to shine.
What are your ultimate goals as you continue to make an impact in the County?
My goal is to make an unforgettable mark on the community by adding value. I want to leave a legacy of the work I accomplished while I served. I already see evidence of that in the performance-oriented culture shift in the organization, the change in dialogue around equity in service delivery, and new energy and recognition that South Fulton is the future north star of development and redevelopment county.
Is there a particular quote or mantra by which you live?
"Don't let anybody steal your joy," words my mom used to leave my sister and me with at the close of conversations. Some say “Goodbye” or “See you soon” or “I love you.” My mom took those moments to remind us that joy is something that we create within ourselves and we lose our power if we ever allow anyone to interrupt that.
Roach leaves us with the words, "Stay tuned, Georgia!" We are so excited to see what's next for this amazing lady and what is to come for our great State, specifically in South Fulton.