‘A very divided city’ | Reaction to Mayor Bottoms’ shocking announcement

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ stunning announcement late Thursday she is not seeking reelection immediately reverberated throughout metro Atlanta’s political and social media landscape.

Bottoms’ decision not to seek a second term marks a sharp turnabout for the city’s second Black woman executive who months ago was among those President Joe Biden considered for his running mate, and then for a Cabinet position.

Bottoms, 51, disclosed her decision publicly in a lengthy open letter and accompanying video after having told family and a close circle of associates and supporters.

“It is with deep emotions that I hold my head high and choose not to seek another term as mayor,” Bottoms wrote, saying she’d prayed about the decision with her husband, Derek, an executive at the Home Depot Inc.

The mayor spoke publicly about her decision Friday morning.

“In the same way that it was very clear to me almost five years ago that I should run for mayor of Atlanta, it is abundantly clear to me today that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” Bottoms said at City Hall.

Bottoms said she doesn’t know what’s next for her; she denied rumors that she or her husband Derek have taken jobs for Walgreens out of state.

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.

“This is not something I woke up and decided yesterday,” Bottoms said Friday. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.” On Thursday night, she noted a recent reelection fundraiser she held with Biden’s support and said polls showed her in a strong position.

The last mayor to serve one term in office was Maynard Jackson, from 1990 to 1994. However, that was after Jackson served two previous terms in office as Atlanta’s first Black mayor, from 1974 to 1982.

Jackson defeated Sam Massell in his reelection bid to assume the city’s highest office. Besides being Atlanta’s last white mayor, Massell was the most recent mayor to seek reelection and lose.

Bottoms was among Biden’s earliest endorsers, taking a risk early in a crowded Democratic primary campaign. She watched her profile rise during the coronavirus pandemic and with the renewed attention on policing in the United States after George Floyd’s killing by a white Minneapolis officer last spring.

She drew plaudits for a nationally televised news conference in which she chided protesters to “go home” while noting her own experiences as a mother of Black sons to empathize with citizens distraught over police violence. She pledged to review Atlanta’s police procedures in the wake of Floyd’s killing.

Yet Bottoms met criticism herself just weeks later when an Atlanta police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks. The officer, Garrett Rolfe, was fired last June, a day after he shot the Black man in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. Rolfe was later charged with murder.

The Atlanta Civil Service Board on Wednesday reversed the firing, finding that the city did not follow its own procedures and failed to grant Rolfe due process. Bottoms said then Rolfe would remain on administrative leave while criminal charges against him are resolved.

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 immigration policies.

Her administration navigated a cyberattack on the city’s computer systems early in her tenure.