Longtime Atlanta City Council members ousted in runoffs

Sheperd, Winslow defeats part of ‘paradigm shift’ on council

Between them, Joyce Sheperd and Cleta Winslow had four-and-a-half decades of experience on the Atlanta City Council.

Both were ousted Tuesday by younger, more progressive challengers.

The dynamics of those races — not to mention the council president contest where political newcomer Doug Shipman defeated longtime District 5 representative Natalyn Archibong — were not identical. But the candidates and their supporters say the results are proof that many Atlantans are ready for something new.

“What happened last night, with a fresher, younger, more progressive, more forward-thinking City Council (being elected), I think has gotten people really excited about the future of this city in a way they haven’t felt in a long time,” Jason Dozier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

Dozier, a 38-year-old Army veteran and community activist, dominated his runoff against Cleta Winslow. Winslow had represented District 4 — a dynamic group of communities stretching from the Venetian Hills neighborhood through West End, the Atlanta University Center and South Downtown — since 1994.

Dozier said he and his team put in the groundwork to build a broad coalition of longtime residents, newcomers and others who were ready for new leadership.

ExploreMore Atalnta runoff election results and news from the AJC

Antonio Lewis took a slightly different approach in District 12. But he got similar results.

Lewis, a 34-year-old activist and native son of the southside district he’ll now represent, spoiled Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd’s bid for a fifth term.

Sheperd told the AJC on Wednesday that her support for a controversial new police and fire training facility, as well as decisions she made during 2020′s tumultuous summer of protests, likely played a role in her defeat.

But Lewis said people were more excited to vote for him than against her. He built a base of folks from his neighborhood who felt like they’d been left behind — and got them to the ballot box.

“They voted for a person who they think cares about them,” Lewis said. “And I’m gonna show them.”

Groups like the Working Families Party and Atlanta Communities United, a new political action committee formed by prominent local activists, celebrated the victories of Lewis, Dozier and other progressive council candidates like Liliana Bakhtiari.

So did state Rep. David Dreyer, chairman of Fulton County’s House delegation.

He tweeted that Atlanta voters “couldn’t have done better” on Election Day.

“We’ve got real challenges but more opportunity,” he wrote. “And leadership that puts people first and works hard. Good things coming.”

As for the ousted incumbents: Winslow, who was Atlanta’s longest-serving female councilmember ever, said Wednesday she was “full of vim and vigor as always.”

She thanked voters for the opportunity to serve and said she’d continue to work in the community.

Sheperd, 69, said she was also at peace with how things turned out. She has no regrets.

She called Tuesday’s results across the city part of a paradigm shift — and wished the youngsters luck.

“As these new people get into office, I think they will see that it’s not as easy as you think it is,” she said. “You can’t snap a finger and it’s going to resolve itself.”