Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joining White House in senior post

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is joining the Biden administration in a senior White House role.

Bottoms, who served as mayor from 2018 through 2021, will be a senior adviser to the president focused on public engagement, the White House announced Wednesday. She will also oversee the White House Office of Public Engagement. Sharing the news on Instagram Tuesday evening, Bottoms added: #Honored.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said Bottoms “understands that democracy is about making government work for working families, for the people who are the backbone of this country.”

“She led the city of Atlanta with strength through the pandemic, through a summer of protests and pain, and through the mass shooting that left Atlanta’s Asian American community in fear,” Biden said.

Bottoms replaces Cedric Richmond, a former congressman who was Biden’s first Office of Public Engagement director as well as a close adviser. He left his post earlier this year.

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Bottoms has visited the White House several times since Biden took office. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Bottoms has visited the White House several times since Biden took office. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Bottoms has visited the White House several times since Biden took office. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

In a similar dual role, Bottoms is likely to have a direct line to both the president and vice president and could be considered one of the public faces of the administration.

“As we continue to navigate historic global challenges, it remains important to have a diversity of thought and experiences within the White House,” Bottoms said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “I am looking forward to helping continue the impactful work that is being done on behalf of the American people.”

The White House’s Office of Public Engagement is responsible for serving as a bridge between the Biden-Harris administration and the American public. The office helps ensure that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are hearing from a wide range of people when it comes to the various issues they are tackling.

While it remains to be seen how much day-to-day influence Bottoms will have, she could provide feedback on the administration’s policy efforts and help communicate the White House’s agenda to the larger Democratic base.

With Biden facing low approval ratings ahead of the midterm elections, Bottoms could be an effective messenger for the White House, especially to communities of color, said Fred Hicks, a local Democratic strategist and consultant.

“The administration has really struggled with communication. ... She’ll be very helpful with messaging,” Hicks said. “Black voters and Black women are the most loyal voting block of the Democratic party. Putting someone who has a very high and very positive national profile in this kind of a position is very, very important.”

Hicks said Bottoms’ appointment showcases Georgia’s growing influence and maintains the former mayor’s prominence in national Democratic circles.

Bottoms was an early and ardent supporter of Biden when he was running for president in 2020, backing him when many others doubted his chances in a crowded Democratic primary. She was on his shortlist of vice presidential picks, and after he was elected, Biden offered Bottoms a position in his Cabinet, though she did not accept it.

She has visited the White House multiple times since Biden took office and has spoken often about the importance of a good relationship between the city and the federal government.

ExploreIN-DEPTH: Mayor Bottoms: ‘We are leaving this city intact’

Biden hosted a fundraiser for her last year before she made the surprise announcement that she wouldn’t seek a second term. Bottoms’ time in office included an extraordinary set of challenges for the city, including a cyberattack, the pandemic and civil unrest in 2020.

Though Bottoms left office with an overall positive approval rating from residents, she had a strained relationship with the City Council and some community groups, especially amid a rise in crime during the pandemic. Some accused Bottoms of being more interested in her courtship with the Biden administration than the day-to-day business of running the city, a notion the mayor rejected.

Bottoms told Axios that she plans to spend most of her time in Washington, with her family staying in Atlanta.

— Staff reporter Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.