He served as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development from 2004 to 2007.
As chief marketing officer for the State, he led efforts to recruit new businesses and industries to Georgia and expand global trade and tourism. During his tenure as Commissioner, Georgia announced nearly 500 new investments and business expansions, which totaled more than $8 billion and created more than 40,000 new jobs.
Lesser led expansion of Georgia’s international presence by adding representatives in Germany, Chile, Brazil, China, and France, which were additions to existing representation in other international offices. He also served as president of Hemisphere, Inc., a public-private partnership that brought the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas Secretariat to Atlanta. He was recently named to the advisory board of Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.
Prior to founding Pendleton Atlanta, Lesser served as managing director of McKenna Long & Aldridge where he headed International Affairs consulting services. He served as vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs for Georgia Power Company; president and CEO of Mirant, New York; and senior vice president of external affairs for Mirant Americas.
He is chairman of the board of CIFAL Atlanta, a UN-based initiative that provides training to local officials, most frequently in Latin America, on governance, economic development, women’s and health issues.
Lesser was named to the Carter Center Board of Councilors in 2017, and currently serves on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s Marketing Task Force for Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, as well as the advisory committee of the J.W. Fanning Institute of the University of Georgia, and the board of directors of Public Broadcasting of Atlanta, and the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta Cultural Center.
He has served as chairman of Georgia Public Broadcasting, the board of the World Trade Center Atlanta, and Atlanta Regional Commission’s Economic Competitiveness Initiative.
He has served on the Boards of Visitors of Emory University and the University of Georgia, the World Trade Center Atlanta, the Georgia Chamber International and bi-National Committees, and the Georgia Municipal Association’s Downtown Cities Task Force.
Lesser provides consulting services through the Pendleton Group, the JEL Consulting Group and the Saffron Group.
Georgia Trend Magazine once again named Lesser to its list of the 100 Most Influential Georgians in 2017. He has been honored for his work in the international sector and the arts by a number of organizations and has been asked to speak on international business and economic development at universities and seminars around the world, including China, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Honduras and El Salvador. Recently, he spoke on public private partnerships at a UN conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
He received his B.A. from the State University of New York College at Oneonta and is a graduate of the
Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, Leadership Georgia and the Regional
He and his wife, Nancy, live in Sandy Springs. His oldest daughter is a graduate of the University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill; and his youngest recently graduated from the University of Georgia.