Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced late Thursday that she will not seek a second term, an election-year surprise that marks a sharp turnabout for the city’s second Black woman executive.
Bottoms, 51, announced she would not run for reelection during a private call, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A short time after reports broke Thursday evening, she later confirmed her intentionswith an open letter shared on Twitter and dearatl.com.
“It is with deep emotions that I hold my head high and choose not to seek another term as mayor,” Bottoms, 51, wrote, saying she’d prayed over the decision with her husband, Derek, an executive at The Home Depot Inc.
The mayor is expected to speak publicly Friday morning.
Bottoms, the second Black woman ever elected mayor in the city, had previously announced she would be running for a second term, holding a fundraising event with President Joe Biden. She made headlines last year when it was announced that she was in consideration for Biden’s running mate.
Bottoms, who narrowly won a runoff election four years ago, pushed backed against any questions about whether she could have secured a second victory later this year. She said polls showed her in a strong position.
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“My ancestors, direct descendants of the once enslaved, traveled by horse and buggy from the cotton fields of east Georgia, in search of a better life for themselves and their children in Atlanta,” she wrote.
“I have carried their belief for a better tomorrow in my heart, their earnest work ethic in my being, and their hopes for generations not yet born on my mind, each day that I have been privileged to serve as the 60th Mayor of Atlanta, the city that I deeply love.”
The city of Atlanta has had its challenges, Bottoms wrote in her letter.
“Yet, we persisted,” she wrote.
A year into her term, Atlanta had more than a third of its systems paralyzed by a March 2018 ransomware attack. Recovery has taken more than a year and costs have been pegged at $17 million.
And last year, Rayshard Brooks was shot outside a Wendy’s after officers responded to a call about him being asleep in his car in the drive-through lane, leading to city and nationwide protests.
The officer, Garrett Rolfe, was fired last June, a day after he shot the Black man at the fast-food restaurant parking lot.. Rolfe was later charged with murder.
On Wednesday, a city review board reversed Rolfe’s firing. finding that the city did not follow its own procedures and failed to grant Rolfe due process. Bottoms has said that Rolfe would remain on administrative leave while criminal charges against him are resolved.
Bottoms came to the mayor’s office as an ally of her predecessor, Kasim Reed, whose endorsement proved critical in her campaign. But she sought to establish her own identity, in no small part because of a long-running FBI investigation in City Hall contracts and finances during Reed’s tenure.
The “far-reaching and ever-growing” investigation, she said Thursday, “consumed City Hall, often leaving employees paralyzed, and fearful of making the smallest of mistakes, lest they too be investigated, or castrated on the evening news.”
Bottoms has never been implicated.
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Early in her term, Bottoms eliminated cash bail in Atlanta and ended the city jail’s relationship with federal immigration enforcement agencies, joining big-city mayors around the country in criticizing then-President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Her administration navigated a cyberattack on the city’s computer systems early in her tenure.
She helped renegotiate the long-term redevelopment of “The Gulch,” part of the city’s old railroad footprint downtown. But the city did not score the biggest potential prize for the location: the second Amazon headquarters that instead is being built in northern Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.
An Atlanta native and graduate of Florida A&M University, a prominent historically Black college, Bottoms is just the second Black woman to lead the city. She joined Shirley Franklin, who served two terms from 2002-2010. Bottoms noted her family’s deep ties to the city and surrounding region whose history traces Black America’s arc from slavery and Jim Crow segregation to the ongoing legacy of institutional racism.
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