Michael E. Paris
President & CEO
Michael Paris, a Cobb County native, took the Council’s helm in late 2003 and has worked to expand the Council and to spread its mission of promoting balanced and responsible growth throughout the metro region and the state. With a degree in real estate from Georgia State University, Michael has more than 35 years of experience in real estate development, brokerage, land-use planning, and association management.
Michael is involved in numerous community and professional activities. His affiliations include the Board of Directors for YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, the Urban Land Institute, an Association Member of the Board of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, and a graduate of both Leadership Cobb and Regional Leadership Institute.
Michael and his wife Kim live in Marietta and have two grown children.
Director of Policy and Government Affairs
As the Council’s lead lobbyist and a representative of the development industry, James Touchton is responsible for building and strengthening relationships with elected officials, citizen advisory groups, coalitions, and policy makers, especially on regional and state levels. He also conducts research and works closely with member volunteers, who are a resource for developing policy positions and advocacy strategy related to infrastructure planning, legislative initiatives, regulatory issues, land use, transportation, and environmental planning policies.
James joined the Council in 2012 after spending the more than four years in the Georgia Senate, where he served in the Senate Research Office as a Senior Policy Analyst and Advisor, focusing on Education & Youth, Higher Education, State & Local Government Operations, Science & Technology, and State Institutions and Properties. In addition to serving as a Senior Analyst, James was named a Senior Fellow to the National Conference of State Legislature’s Early Learning Program and the state contact for “Project Democracy.” James received his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006 from Kennesaw State University and his Masters of Public Administration in 2009, where he served as Student Government President in 2006-2007. Additionally, James served on several Boards, including the AdvanceAtlanta, Kennesaw State’s Master of Public Administration Advisory Board, Political Science Advisory Board at KSU and as the former Advisor to his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. He is also a graduate of the Leadership Cobb 2015 Program.
Director of Membership & Programs
Katie Smith is the new Director of Membership and Programs at the Council for Quality Growth, where she will be responsible for membership recruitment and retention, as well as the management of the Council’s premier programs such as the Opportunity Outlooks, CID Reception, Four Pillar Tribute, State of the County Addresses, and beyond.
A seasoned leader in the role of managing organizations, Katie brings to the team 10 years of experience as a skilled and diligent membership, marketing, fundraising, event planning, and communications professional. Most recently, Katie served as the Director of Operations for Leadership Georgia, and previously worked with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and University of Georgia’s Office of Special Events.
Membership Services & Operations Manager
Nikki is the Member Services and Operations Manager at the Council for Quality Growth. She grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Atlanta in 2009. Nikki has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Social Work, Community Partnerships Degree from Georgia State. Prior to working at the Council, Nikki was the Investments and Operations Coordinator for the United Way of Greater Atlanta. She currently lives in Brookhaven with her husband and their two dogs.
Senior Policy Analyst
Taylor served as the Governor’s lead budgetary policy analyst to the departments of Community Affairs, Economic Development, the Secretary of State, and the Office of Workforce Development. In this role, Taylor worked with elected officials and agency executives to craft and advance policy and budgetary objectives impacting economic development and workforce preparedness issues at the state and local level. Taylor has a proven track record of bringing stakeholders together to collaborate on, and adopt fiscal and procedural strategies involving licensing and permitting, critical infrastructure, and land use, among other areas indispensable to quality growth in the Metro Atlanta area.
Taylor received his undergraduate degree from Clemson University and his law degree from the University of Tennessee. Taylor resides with his wife, Doree, in historic Capitol View Manor, Atlanta.
Policy and Communications Coordinator
Jen Farris is the Policy and Communications Coordinator at the Council for Quality Growth, where she is responsible for managing the Council’s Advisory Committee programs, analyzing and preparing reports on issues related to economic development and planning. She also is responsible for publishing all Council E-Newsletters, and announcements.
Jen received her Bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, where she double majored in psychology and sociology with a concentration in urban planning and public health. Jen is a Georgia native and currently resides in Decatur.