AJC INTERVIEW | Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens will run for reelection in 2025

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during the celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Mayor Maynard Jackson at the Atlanta City Hall Atrium, Monday, January 8, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during the celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Mayor Maynard Jackson at the Atlanta City Hall Atrium, Monday, January 8, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens says he’s hoping President Joe Biden doesn’t have his eye on him for a potential position in his administration, if the Democratic presidential campaign is successful in 2024.

That’s because Dickens has confirmed he will be launching a reelection bid in 2025. The first-term mayor said his current gig is the job he’s wanted since age 16, and a position he doesn’t want to forfeit anytime soon.

“I definitely want to be mayor of Atlanta — this is the best job in the world to be honest,” he said during a meeting Friday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board. “I respect and honor what happens in DC … It never grows old seeing the President’s plane fly into our city.”

“But I hope they don’t call me,” he said. “I want to do this job.”

Dickens’ remarks came during a sweeping interview with the AJC which touched on topics like his role in the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, the city’s response to the training center referendum effort, affordable housing projects on the horizon and his efforts to reduce violent crime.

FILE — President Joe Biden, right, greets Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, center, and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) as he arrives at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Jan. 15, 2023. Atlanta, Chicago and New York are finalists to host the 2024 Democratic Convention, and local Democrats are eager to bend Biden’s ear to host his formal nomination event. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times)

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Despite his focus on Atlanta’s most pressing issues, the mayor will play an important role in Biden’s White House bid. Along with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Dickens will be part of the campaign’s advisory board and act as a surrogate to spread the Democrats’ messaging.

That means traveling across Georgia — and in some cases out of state — for events.

“Georgia is a battleground state so I’ll be making sure that across Georgia they know that I’m on that team,” Dickens said. The mayor noted that he expects numerous visits from Biden and Harris to Atlanta.

The vice president has made two trips to Georgia this year already, including a stop in the capital city for a discussion with voting rights advocates. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden also traveled to Atlanta this month to spotlight women’s health initiatives.

But high-profile campaign visits to a swing state like Georgia mean local leaders will likely catch national attention. And that means both Dickens’ successes and controversies have the potential to overlap with the federal campaign.

Training center debate intensifies

Since Dickens took office — and even well before — debate around the city’s public safety training center located in unincorporated DeKalb County has only intensified.

The project has been pitched by the current and previous administration as a high-priority need for the city’s police, firefighters and EMS personnel who have been stuck training in rundown, and even condemned, facilities.

But the training center has amassed wide-scale opposition from Atlanta residents who believe the facility may lead to increased militarized policing, and by environmental activists who have concerns about the South River Forest ― the massive urban tree canopy that will be home to the 85-acre site.

The mayor said earlier this month at an Atlanta Press Club event that he doesn’t believe the controversy will leak into the presidential campaign, noting that the topic hasn’t come up in his recent discussions with Biden.

“I don’t think it shows up on a national landscape,” he said. “When you have crime stats that are in the right direction, I think people won’t have much of an argument against our way of doing things.”

Protestors against Atlanta's planned public safety training center, known by some as "Cop City," gather at Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Opponents disagree.

Atlanta resident Debra Kahn, who aided in the collection of signatures for the training center referendum effort, said voters against the project are “not going to disappear.” An attempt to force approval of the facility by the public through a referendum has been stuck in legal limbo.

“Those of us who campaigned for the mayor, Sens. Ossoff and Warnock, and the president are going to take a pass these coming elections,” she told Atlanta City Council during public comment this month.

The city hasn’t yet started verifying signatures in the petition drive, holding off until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on whether or not DeKalb County residents are allowed to aid in signature collection.

Dickens repeated to the editorial board his eagerness to have all the signatures counted, and said he has urged the Municipal Clerk to begin the arduous task of verifying signers as soon as the court decides the case.

“We have not made one lawsuit,” Dickens said. “We only responded to lawsuits, however frivolous or however potentially real — but we have prevailed because we’re standing on solid ground.”

“I want the public to know what I suspect, is a count that is going to be short of what was needed,” he said.