Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered the keynote address at this year’s Buckhead Coalition annual meeting.
Addressing a room full of the city’s business and political leaders, Bottoms’ speech followed a theme of “Atlanta Together.”
The first part of her speech focused on her personal ties to the city, the importance of her family and what she calls the “seamless community” of Atlanta’s many neighborhoods.
“When Buckhead is strong, we know the south side is strong,” Bottoms said. “And we know when the south side is strong, the north side is strong. So I am committed to making sure we continue to work together to make sure our entire city is as strong as it can possibly be.”
Other initiatives mentioned in the remarks include strengthening Atlanta’s bond rating, attracting more companies looking to build headquarters and investing in projects that benefit all of Atlanta.
The Buckhead Coalition is an invite-only group of 100 business leaders, and Chairman Juanita Baranco says the theme came from a comment Bottoms made on the campaign trail.
The Buckhead Coalition endorsed Mayor Bottoms’ opponent, Mary Norwood, in the runoff election last November. Norwood also carried Buckhead on election day.
TRANSCRIPT OF THE MAYOR'S REMARKS
Good afternoon. I’ve joked that I am going to place a bet on how long these very gracious standing ovations will last for me before I speak. I’m grateful to be here. It really feels good to be here as a winner. I’ll tell you the last time I was here, I was here with a few of my best friends. There were about 97 of us in the little corner here on the stage. As I’m looking at this corner, I’m trying to figure out how we all were able to fit here, but I’m still here and I’m still standing.
It’s interesting, we were talking at the table and I joked about my children “Googling” me. And depending on the day, some days it’s a really good day and some days it’s not. I have to remind myself that they see everything and they hear everything, even when I don’t think they’re paying attention.
When I was last here, for the first time I talked about my father and about my family and I talked about the impact of my father Major Lance, who was an absolutely wonderful man, but the impact that his going to prison had on my family. I’d forgotten I’d never shared that story with my children and my 9-year-old said to me – apparently he had been online – “Granddaddy Major went to jail? This is awful!”
It really was the beginning of what became a very cathartic process for me and a very authentic campaign to become mayor of Atlanta. Because it was here in this place, Mayor Massell, that I shared very openly for the first time things that I had not shared and discussed with many people closest to me.
I thought that it was important as we embarked on deciding who the next leader of our city would be, that you understand my perspective and why becoming mayor of Atlanta was so very important and so very near and dear to my heart. It really was because of what this city did for me that I am grateful to stand here as the mayor of Atlanta.
I debated as to whether or not I would win the award for being really brief. And I thought the line that I can give as a speech and then sit down that will make Howard Shook very happy would be to say that “Buckhead will not be an ATM for the city of Atlanta,” then I took my seat and let that be the end of my speech.
Juanita, I know you would be really disappointed, so I wanted to make sure that I spoke just a little longer on what it means to stand here today.
Throughout the course of the campaign, I’ve talked a lot about my family and I talked a lot about my grandmother, and I talked about my grandmother working at Davison’s at Lenox Square. She started working there when Davison’s opened, and when the mall opened it was before they let African-American women work on the sales floor. Many of you who have been around Atlanta a long time know that Davison’s is now Macy’s.
She worked there for the next 30 years, and she would take the bus there, Mayor Massell, after MARTA was created. Thank you very much. My grandmother lived off of M.L. King and she never learned to drive. She would take the bus each day and she would carpool before she could take the bus.
Her being able to get to and from work every day really changed the course of our family. It allowed her to buy clothes for my mother and allowed her to support us. It allowed her to buy me an insurance policy that I was able to cash in and open up my first bank account at the bank that’s now known as Wells Fargo. And it really was a pathway for me to go to college and to have money in college.
The other thing that I remember about my grandmother working at Lenox Square was that we would drive from our home in Collier Heights and we would take the back roads into Buckhead to pick my grandmother up sometimes, and it always struck me of what a seamless beautiful drive it was, this drive from one neighborhood, from that side of northwest Atlanta into Buckhead.
As I’ve grown older, what I really have begun to appreciate is that Atlanta really is a seamless community. That we just go with ease from one community to the next. And it really is a reminder of how we all are interconnected. Not just with our streets, but also with our communities, with our neighborhoods and with our families.
That’s why it’s so incredibly important that we remember that we really are one Atlanta.
Howard – and Howard I'm picking on you today. It tells you how much I miss you on City Council. Howard and I would often joke when we talked about the progress, and I would get frustrated about what was or was not happening in southwest Atlanta. And Howard would promise me that if he could he would pack up some cranes and ship them over to southwest Atlanta.
And that really became a theme for the campaign on how important it is that we all care about what’s happening in each of our communities because it impacts all of us.
And we know that when Buckhead is strong, we know that the south side is strong and we know that when the south side is strong, we know that the north side is strong. So, I am committed to making sure that we continue to work together to make sure that our entire city is as strong as it can possibly be.
I said in my inaugural address on January 2nd, I just want to remind you all for those of you all who are paying attention to the transition, that this transition is less than three weeks – which is pretty incredible.
Just last week I was with the mayor of New Orleans, and their election was sometime around the end of October and their new mayor takes office in April. Can you believe that? I’m not feeling really bad, Felicia, about how much time we’ve had to transition from the runoff to here.
I said in my inaugural address that we must remember that Atlanta is an international city, an Olympic city, and we have always taken the path that led us to success. We earned our status as a global powerhouse thanks to leaders who came before us. Leaders like Ivan Allen, like Dr. King, like Ambassador Young, like Mayor Massell.
These are leaders who said we must find a way to connect with each other and bring our city together or we will be stagnant. Atlanta’s familiar with overcoming the odds and achieving greatness. The fact that we are a finalist for Amazon really speaks to our reputation and our brand as a city. We are the economic and cultural engine of the southeast. I promise that will not end over the next four years.
In 2017, our international passenger volume was up 4.8 percent to 12 million at Hartsfield Jackson and our cargo volume increased by 5.6 percent. You all have probably seen the news this week that our airport was once again named the busiest airport in the world. So we can clap for that.
Although we have sometimes had our challenges in our city, clearly we are doing something right. It is the reason that as I formulated my transition team, I thought it was important that I had a cross-section of representatives across this city starting with Vicki Palmer, former executive at the Coca-Cola Company and also Larry Gellerstedt of Cousins Properties.
I asked them to lead my transition team, and in formulating this team in our first meeting and looking at the leaders, many of whom are in this room today, leaders like David Abney of UPS, Marty Flanagan of Invesco, and Doug Hertz of United Distributors. What I realized when looking across the room is that just about every campaign was represented in that room. And I thought that was important, because during the course of the campaign, what we found was that although our perspectives were different and our approaches were different, we all cared about the outcomes and that outcome being that we are strong in Atlanta.
I’m so very honored to have that leadership reflected in my transition team to make sure that as we transition administrations in the city of Atlanta, that your voices continue to be heard, that your concerns continue to be heard, and we move forward on one accord.
On a neighborhood level, we will continue to invest in essential projects that impact all of Atlanta, especially projects like those on the northside: the 36 millions dollars improvement at the Atlanta Memorial Park and the upgrades to Chastain Park.
We will also continue to be good stewards of public dollars as we look at how we spend our T-SPLOST money to make sure that we address many of the transportation issues that so many of us complain about. But as we address our transportation issues, again it goes back to the balance in our city. Something I’ve said repeatedly is that our city will not be a world-class city if every community is not truly a destination community in our city.
The reason that we sometimes encounter traffic in Buckhead is because we don’t have great places to dine and to shop in other areas in our city. The reason that young families choose not to move to the south side of Atlanta is because their school choices aren’t always as solid as they are in other areas of the city.
It’s the reason that I have been committed in so many ways to working with our public school leaders who are doing such a great job to make sure that our children have the best opportunities possible across this city.
I am committed to working with them so that we are good partners, from the city of Atlanta’s perspective so that we can do all that we can do to make sure they are able to do all they can do to shore up our schools and our communities across this city. It’s why I am so very grateful that Byron Amos has agreed to be a part of our transition team as well. Because I wanted it to be clear to all that our children and our communities remain priority in the city of Atlanta.
I’m also committed to make sure that we continue to be good stewards of your money. So while we have achieved a tremendous amount of success as it relates to our pension reform, with the leadership that you all have given in so many ways in helping make sure that as a city, we are looking at the best practices in every area, I want us to take it a step further. Our AA+ credit rating is not enough. I am committed to working with City Council so that we can pursue AAA credit rating of the city of Atlanta.
I want to make sure that companies like Amazon look at Atlanta and pursue opportunities in Atlanta, that companies like yours are not forgotten. That your businesses are not forgotten. And that our communities are not forgotten. While we pursue outside opportunities, It’s extremely important that we do not forget those who have stuck with us.
I don’t think that was better represented then recently when I was on the west side with Councilman Ivory Young, when Chick-Fil-A was opening their restaurant on MLK Drive. It was 16 degrees out. I didn’t stay, I don’t know if Ivory stayed. I went by. What struck me is that there were 16 CEO’ who committed to spending the night outside where people who wanted to get free Chick-Fil-A for a year. What struck me in addition to their willingness to sleep in the cold, was their willingness to commit to making our communities better. What we talked about that night was how Atlanta’s unlike any other city in the country. That CEOs and business leaders are struck by the level of cooperation and the level of partnership that we have in this city.
I’m so very proud to be the mayor of this city where people care. It’s not just about coming here to make a dollar, but it really is about coming here to change lives. I look forward to the next four years. I look forward to being your partner, and I am grateful to be your mayor.
Thank you for having me.