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The Atlas envisions a world where cities are safer, smarter and more sustainable because city officials have quick, easy access to all of the solutions and partners they need to solve their toughest problems – problems like citizen engagement, climate change, and mobility.


The Atlas is an online community that helps city, county and utility officials do three things: 1) Share their success stories 2) Learn about what’s working elsewhere and 3) Build relationships with the partners they need to jumpstart progress. The goal is to help city officials R&D (rip-off & duplicate!) what’s working elsewhere in their own communities – whether that’s a specific technology approach, design innovation, financing mechanism, public-private partnership arrangement or procurement method. The Atlas is proud to call the City of San Diego home.


The Atlas was founded by three women under 35, two of whom are military spouses and all of whom are former government officials themselves. After leaving government service in 2013, The Atlas co-founders had an opportunity to work directly with eight U.S. cities to help them pursue specific infrastructure innovations like flexible flood barriers and microgrids as a part of a large philanthropic effort supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. During working sessions with the eight cities, it became obvious that local governments needed a safe place online to share, learn and build relationships. It also became obvious that implementing partners were struggling to connect with the right cities, at the right time, with the right information – and that they were spending a ton of time and money trying to do so. Thus, The Atlas was born! In the short years since its founding in 2016, The Atlas has become an online community of engaged local government officials and staff. The Atlas helps 1,000+ city officials each month find creative solutions to urban problems that have been proven in other communities around the world, and has facilitated more than 3,000 new relationships to help cities jumpstart progress on the ground.

Elle Hempen

Co-founder &

Chief Executive Officer

Elle has spent her career making it easier for the public and private sectors to work together to solve problems. Prior to co-founding The Atlas, Elle served as the Director of Strategy & Partnership at re:focus partners, where she managed a $3 million grant program. She also served as Special Assistant and Communications Director in the U.S. EPA's Office of International and Tribal Affairs, where her portfolio included initiatives that facilitated city-to-city learning on urban innovation, design programs that supported environmental entrepreneurship, and strategies that educated stakeholders about EPA’s international success stories.
Elle has an MBA with a Marketing Concentration from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and a B.A. in Public Policy from the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Ellory Monks


Ellory is driven by a deep desire to help cities around the world flourish and leads all engagement with The Atlas partner cities and local government users. She has extensive experience working directly with local government leaders and stakeholders to identify and implement strategies that solve complex infrastructure problems. Prior to co-founding The Atlas, Ellory was a Partner at re:focus partners, where she oversaw several projects, including an initiative that worked with New Jersey cities and utilities to design and finance innovative stormwater management projects. Previously, Ellory held a fellowship at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, where she acted as the executive secretary of the Obama Administration’s Climate Data and Tools Initiative, and more broadly, provided analytical and technical support to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on a wide range of infrastructure, energy and environment issues. She frequently contributes to the ongoing conversation about cities, infrastructure and innovation in outlets like Architect Magazine and the Brookings Institution.
Ellory has a B.A. in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Public Policy with a minor in Water and Energy Sustainability from Rice University.

Angela Murrell

Head of Development

Angela has more than 6 years of professional full-stack web development experience and is passionate about using software to solve the world’s biggest problems. She is responsible for ensuring The Atlas platform creates value for all users and delivers on its mission to help cities and innovators connect to make communities safer, smarter and more sustainable. Previously, Angela has worked in software startups where she gained experience managing teams, while also prioritizing, designing and building technology solutions that deliver on business needs. Most recently she was a Full Stack Software Engineer at Recovery Brands and prior to that was Lead Web Developer for Smart Industries.
Angela studied Ethnic Studies and Political Science at University of California, San Diego and received an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Web Development and Business Administration from Cuyamanca College.

Mandy Burnett

Business Development

Mandy knows that cities are powered by people...and that’s perfect, because Mandy loves people. Mandy leverages her enthusiasm at The Atlas, where she is responsible for expanding the number and types of implementing partners in The Atlas community. Mandy’s background is in real estate and telecommunications, including several roles in client management, sales and marketing. Mandy volunteers extensively in her community, including singing in her church’s choir.
Mandy has a B.A. in Communication from University of Arkansas.

Steven Peterson

Business Development

Steven is passionate about all things data, technology and business. He applies that enthusiasm to his work at The Atlas, where he focuses on growing the number of implementing partners in The Atlas community and applying analytics to inform marketing and sales strategies. Prior to joining The Atlas, Steven worked with the Newport Harbor Foundation, where he successfully doubled the number of sponsorships in less than a year, and held an internship with Saavy Inc, where he worked with their marketing department to research and coordinate endorsement contracts with NFL athletes.
Steven has a B.A. in Business from Gonzaga University, where he competed on the university’s D1 rowing team.

Matt Stacy

Front End Development

Matt has more than 9 years of web development experience in startups and loves building dynamic user experiences. At The Atlas, he leads all front-end development activities and is responsible for ensuring that The Atlas is easy for partners to use as they share, learn and connect. Prior to joining The Atlas, Matt was a Lead Front End Engineer at San Diego startups, including Recovery Brands and Mindgruve.
Matt has B.S. in Web design and Interactive Media from Art Institute of California - San Diego.

Grey Vurgin


Grey is a full stack developer who is fascinated equally by art and technology. He applies his skill and experience at The Atlas, where he provides design vision and leadership. Grey also serves as senior software engineer at, a nonprofit fundraising platform based in San Diego. Grey has more than five years of design and development experience at several startups, including Soloshot and BVA.
Grey received an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Web Development from Cuyamanca College.

Shalini Vajjhala, Phd


Dr. Vajjhala is widely recognized as a thought leader in resilient infrastructure design and finance. Shalini currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of re:focus partners. Previously, she served as Visiting Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Special Representative in the Office of Administrator Lisa Jackson at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of International & Tribal Affairs at the US EPA and Deputy Associate Director for Energy & Climate at the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Shalini received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy and B.Arch in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University.

Hon. Michael Nutter


Michael, a 2-term Mayor and 15-year veteran of Philadelphia’s City Council, has dedicated his life to public service and urban innovation. Since leaving government, Mayor Nutter has maintained active involvement in media, public policy, politics, business, and academia across the country. His work includes serving as a Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University’s SIPA, is a political contributor at CNN, Senior Fellow for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities program, and Chair of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Equity Advisory Council. In addition, he serves as a Code for America Board member, Distinguished Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, and continues to work with mayors all across the United States through US Conference of Mayors, where he previously served as President, National League of Cities, and Cities United, which he created while mayor of Philadelphia.
Michael has a B.A. in Economics from University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School of Business, and Honorary Doctorates in Public Service from Drexel University and Saint Joseph's University.

Hon. Richard J. Berry


RJ, a former two-term Mayor of Albuquerque, is known for his innovative approach to government. His passion for bringing diverse groups together to solve persistent and complex urban challenges resulted in efficiency measures that produced $34 million in taxpayer savings, expanded use of public-private partnerships, streamlined infrastructure planning and financing, and improvements in educational attainment and workforce development. He oversaw $1.2 billion dollars in infrastructure and public projects during his tenure, including everything from smart city systems such as LED streetlight conversions and renewable energy projects, to more traditional infrastructure like road upgrades and airport improvements. He also oversaw the development of America’s first all-electric bus rapid transit system. Prior to public service, RJ was an accomplished entrepreneur who grew several construction and design/build companies. Since leaving government, RJ has continued his associations with organizations that support urban innovation and the development of next generation’s public-sector leaders including: Cities of Service, Results4America, What Works Cities, Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute.
RJ has a BA in Finance and Administration from University of New Mexico.