Emory’s plans to annex into the city of Atlanta are being spearheaded by a departing employee who has started his own company.
Michael Mandl, who is now head of Mandl & Co., spoke to the Druid Hills Civic Association on Sept. 21 and discussed the annexation effort. His new company has a contract through the university, according to the Emory Wheel student newspaper. Mandl has spent the last 13 years as Emory’s executive vice president for finance and administration. He formed the company with another departing Emory employee, Jack Tillman, the newspaper reported. Tillman has served as Emory’s associate vice president for corporate development.
During the course of the Sept. 21 meeting Mandl revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are also interested in annexing into the city.
“Children’s Healthcare and CDC have individually said this is what they want to do, so the three of us are coordinating and working together,” he told the Civic Association.
Mandl told the Civic Association that Emory’s intent is to pursue annexation in an “open, participatory way.”
When Atlanta Loop attempted to interview Mandl after the meeting, he declined to comment and referred all questions to Emory’s public relations department.
In addition to confirming CHOA and CDC’s involvement with the project, Mandl confirmed one of Emory’s interests is participating in the Clifton Corridor light rail project. There’s a half-penny sales tax on the ballot this November to expand MARTA in Atlanta. The Clifton corridor would provide a transit pipeline to Emory’s campus. The corridor would link MARTA’s Lindbergh and Avondale transit stations.
“That was a factor in our positioning of that. Coinciding with MARTA leadership’s interest and the city’s interest in [extending] the Lindbergh route, it made sense to align our interests on that front,” he said.
Mandl also said there’s a long-term interest in joining Atlanta. He noted that as annexation and cityhood discussions bubbled up in DeKalb County a couple of years ago, Emory remained officially neutral about joining a new or existing city.
“Time passed and as we began to think about Emory’s long-term future in the context of Metro Atlanta, what Atlanta is trying to become is a global city,” he said. “What Emory aspires to be is a global institution. We thought it was wise to revisit our decision and see if anything changed.”
He said Emory believes its success is tied with the success of Atlanta. “The more seamless the metro area is, the better,” Mandl said.
Mandl also made it clear Emory isn’t trying to push other neighborhoods to annex into Atlanta. There’s concern that other neighborhoods like Druid Hills would feel pressure to petition to join Atlanta as well instead of being in an isolated patch of unincorporated DeKalb County.
One of the residents at the meeting asked if the University would use its clout to “help us equalize the senior tax exemption between unincorporated DeKalb and the city of Atlanta.” That has been a major sticking point in previous discussions about the neighborhood joining Atlanta.
“It’s probably not something we would be excited, interested and energetic about participating in,” Mandl replied. “I’m not clear that should be our role, is the simple answer.”
State Sen. Elena Parent also attended the meeting and asked what Mandl and Emory would do to avoid alienating DeKalb County. She said the annexation could make building the Clifton Corridor more difficult if DeKalb County declines to cooperate. She said the half-penny tax won’t be enough to build the full line.
“What I’m nervous about is that Emory’s now losing leverage with DeKalb County,” she said.
She asked what Emory would do to “help us get DeKalb County to come to the table.”
“We can’t decide for some commissioners in DeKalb what their attitude toward Emory is going to be,” Mandl said.
He added that Emory would still be in DeKalb County if the annexation is approved.
“We’re not leaving DeKalb County,” Mandl said. “We still have significant employment of people in DeKalb. Our campus is in DeKalb County.”
Mandl said the university is currently in the “diligence phase with the city,” exploring the potential consequences of moving into the city of Atlanta. He didn’t have a specific timeline for the annexation.
“But if things go well and there aren’t any big obstacles it could happen as early as December and as late as sometime next year,” he said.