Carol Tome to lead Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2012

Carol Tome

Carol Tomé

It’s hard to imagine, but Carol Tomé’s life just got more hectic than it already is.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is announcing Friday that Tomé, chief financial officer of Home Depot, will chair the organization’s board in 2012.

In addition to being the top numbers-cruncher at Georgia’s biggest company, Tomé’s plate has been more than full. She chairs the board of the Atlanta Federal Reserve and serves on the boards of UPS and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. She just got through heading the city’s search for a new airport chief.

My guess is that she’s not going to be coaching much youth soccer or taking afternoon siestas, but what do I know?

“I’ve got a lot of stamina,” Tomé told me. “I work a lot of long hours, and it’s OK.”

Tomé, 53, is only the second woman to chair the metro chamber’s board in 151 years. (In 1997, Jackie Ward, former CEO of Computer Generation, became the first.) At major public companies, there are not a lot of women at the top to choose from – a sad fact in 2010. Among the 14 Fortune 500 companies in Georgia, not one is led by a woman.

“You struggle with that issue as a business organization,” said Bill Linginfelter, the current chair of the metro chamber, which represents about 4,000 companies employing nearly 1 million workers. He thinks, however, that things are changing for the better.

If they are, the rate of change is much too slow, in my view. The business world needs to pick up the pace.

Business execs often malign the political world, and rightly so. But when it comes to gender equality, the political world seems to be making more progress. For example, three of our nine Supreme Court justices are women and the third most powerful government official in America – the speaker of the House – is a woman, at least for now.

As for Tomé, she’s considered a heavyweight thinker who knows how to communicate and delegate, according to several people I spoke with. She’s also a potential successor to Frank Blake at Home Depot, although he has no plans to relinquish the CEO job anytime soon.

Blake once described Tomé as the “central nervous system” of the company. She’s also the only senior exec to work for all four of Home Depot’s leaders: co-founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, former CEO Bob Nardelli and Blake.

I guess she does have stamina. And she’s super organized. Before accepting her new role with the chamber, she charted all of the meetings she has to attend between now and the end of 2012.

“I found out that I could serve all roles adequately,” Tomé said. “I feel very strongly in giving back. My husband and I don’t have any children.”

Starting Dec. 1, she’ll be working with Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock. That’s when Brock takes over as 2011 chamber chair and Tomé becomes chair-elect. They’ll focus on two key regional stumbling blocks – water and transportation.

Tomé believes her roles at the chamber, Atlanta Fed, UPS and Home Depot are connected. They all relate to economic development, she said, which means the strategic board work is more closely linked than it might appear from the outside.

Still, I’m not convinced she knows there are only 24 hours in a day.

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8 comments Add your comment

TnGelding

October 28th, 2010
9:35 pm

Good for her. Hopefully she’ll be able to get the pols thinking about the important challenges facing us. She’s certainly been affiliated with success. What an inspiration to every barefoot gal dreaming of improving their lives.

Vendor Use to Be

October 29th, 2010
6:35 am

I am really glad to see the changes at HD and the successes of good solid and qualified people like Carol. I’m betting that people like her and Frank can grow jobs in this city of which I am a life long resident. Nardelli came to HD and looted not only money but cost lots of jobs including dozens that I employed when he brought his buddies and their buddies to this great city. You go Girl!

nativeson71

October 29th, 2010
7:56 am

stop laying people off…
stop the persistent rumors of mass layoff…people can’t sleep.
I’m an Orange blooded former employee who has worked under all 4 CEO’s too. I still work in the ‘Home Depot industry’ and I love Home Depot…but REALLY…what up with the layoff rumors…
To quote Frank Blanke, “Light’n Up.”

exHD

October 29th, 2010
8:25 am

Traditionally, it’s the CEO of the company who takes this role. Except even Sam Williams is smart enough to see that Carol is a far better leader than Frank Blake. Not to mention willing to carry the workload. Frank only sees one entity outside THD, and that’s Habitat for Humanity, because his wife is the head of legal there. And coincidentally … didn’t THD grant Habitit $35M in his first year as CEO. Coincidence? I think not.

yellojacket

October 29th, 2010
9:53 am

STOP LAYING OFF PEOPLE- PEOPLE THAT BUILT HD INTO THE COMPANY IT IS TODAY.

confussedd

October 29th, 2010
2:10 pm

Home Depot has had its problems. She did the financials that paid a CEO record money to get fired. Might not be a great choice.

OLD HD Employee

October 29th, 2010
2:30 pm

I agree. Stop with the layoffs. And I also agree that she did the financials to give Nardelli a fat severance package. So glad to be away from that nightmare of a company. It was the best thing I could ever do, leaving that place.

RGB

October 29th, 2010
6:55 pm

At major public companies, there are not a lot of women at the top to choose from – a sad fact in 2010. Among the 14 Fortune 500 companies in Georgia, not one is led by a woman.

Why turn what should have been a positive story into an indictment of America’s system of choosing chief executives? She’s the CFO, correct? That’s not chopped liver. The “C” stands for “Chief” does it not? Would that be considered an attractive job? I’m thinking it would be.

Maybe we should have President Obama prescribe the mix of chief executives by gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, nationality, party affiliation–and whatever else you can think of.

Write a column suggesting He should name a CEO selection czar.

I mean why would a business writer think that CEO selection could be trusted to the private sector?

Sheeesh.