Every organization needs someone who can engage with everyone on the staff and truly connect with the entire team. This person serves as the “glue” of the organization and knows how to keep spirits high to ensure a positive and productive workplace. For Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI), that person is Vicki Cimkentli, who dons many hats besides her official role as the Executive Assistant to ABI President and CEO Clyde Higgs. In recognition of National Administrative Assistant Day this month, our staff spotlight highlights her work and rather fascinating life.
Vicki Cimkentli has lived in or traveled to almost every corner of the globe and delights in finding beauty everywhere she goes. From birth through early childhood, Vicki lived in several parts of the United Kingdom while her dad worked for the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defense. As a teenager, she moved with her family to Germany and studied in Düsseldorf. Vicki lived in Germany almost 20 years, became fluent in German and English, and spent several years working as an interpreter, primarily at Germany’s Federal Headquarters for asylum seekers.
Ready for a change, Vicki took a job aboard a cruise ship based in Puerto Rico. She was initially hired to assist German speaking passengers for a single holiday season but ended up in a long-term role as a purser and spent two years traveling all over the Caribbean. She describes it as “a character-building opportunity because you have to figure everything out for yourself – and there’s no down time because you don’t go home; you’re on the ship 24 hours a day.” She developed many lifelong friendships during that time, including that of a professional magician performing on the ship who has now been her husband for 25 years.
The two settled in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and lived there for 11 years before the heat and hurricanes became intolerable, prompting them to seek a new home. Vicki read a magazine article about Atlanta and suggested it as an option. Having never been to Atlanta, she went on a scouting trip and decided on that visit to buy a home in Marietta. Vicki’s husband never even saw the house prior to closing, but they have lived there happily ever since.
An art aficionado, Vicki once collaborated on an art book for a collector of glass from the Bauhaus period. She and her husband have a collection of mid-century modern furniture in their home, and she also dabbles in painting herself. In 2011, she participated in the “Bucks in the Street” event in Buckhead, painting and accessorizing three sculptures – including Super Buck – which now belongs to the PATH Foundation. She describes herself as a “serious foodie” as well and has been known to organize foodie trips in the U.S. and beyond just to try a particular restaurant she has read about.
Vicki had the opportunity to take an Atlanta BeltLine bus tour several years ago and was struck by what she observed, saying, “I saw parts of the city I’d never seen, and I knew I wanted to become involved in the project.” She soon learned of an opening for the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO, applied, and was hired in 2017. In this role, she is primarily responsible for maintaining Clyde Higgs’ calendar and engaging directly with members of the board. She says her duties involve a lot of gatekeeping, adding, “every day is different; you just never know what is going to come up.”
Other team members say Vicki does quite a bit more than manage Clyde Higgs’ schedule. She is a direct link between Higgs and the rest of the BeltLine team, and she does a lot to enhance company culture and keep people connected.
“Vicki is truly an asset to ABI,” Higgs shared. “She has a gift of hospitality and reads people well, which is important for this line of work. I appreciate all that she does to help keep me and ABI straight as well as her ability to balance levity with business.”
Being British, Vicki often arranges breakfasts and afternoon teas in the office. She is also a two-time winner of the staff cake-baking competition, winning once with what she describes as a “Middle Eastern yogurt pistachio almond cake.”
Celebrating five years in her role, Vicki says she loves what her job and believes passionately in the project. “I’m part of an exciting change in the city. I see people enjoying the BeltLine, and I know the people building it, the people managing it, and the person leading the organization. To be part of this project for equitable inclusion is very rewarding.” As someone who has traveled all over the planet, Vicki is quite an authority on what makes a city resonate with people, and she feels like Atlanta is unique. “Atlanta has evolved into a truly world-class city. It has so much diversity and has grown so much. To see what it is becoming is just fantastic.”
Vicki continues to travel whenever possible, enjoys Atlanta’s robust arts and music culture, and lives happily in Marietta with her husband of 25 years and their three rescue dogs.