Emotion filled Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s small ceremonial office as he spoke this week during a final joint public appearance during Richard Anderson’s tenure as Delta CEO.
Reed at times fought back tears as he peppered his remarks on the new 20-year Atlanta airport lease agreement with high praise for Anderson not only as the leader during a pivotal time for Delta, but also for his involvement with the City of Atlanta and as a personal friend and mentor to the mayor.
“Richard was here when I started. And I think that if you named it and the city of Atlanta needs it, he was there… and his leadership just made a difference,” Reed said as both leaders wiped away tears.
Anderson was presented with The Phoenix Award, the highest honor an individual or group can receive from the mayor of Atlanta recognizing outstanding achievements and service to the city, state, nation or world.
“When history catches its breath, his name will be right along folks like Mills Lane, Robert Woodruff, Robert Goizueta, Ted Turner and others because of the work he did and when he did it,” Reed said.
Anderson’s parting words remained focused on high praise for Delta people.
“I think it’s fair to characterize the last nine years at Delta as one of the most remarkable transformations of any organization in the history of corporations in America,” Anderson said. “We went from a bankruptcy to the most successful, profitable, admired airline in the world and it’s really a tribute to the people and the culture of the now 80,000people who made that happen.”
Anderson will retire from Delta’s CEO post effective May 2. Ed Bastian will be appointed CEO and Anderson will be elevated to Executive Chairman of the Delta Air Lines Board of Directors.