In her own words: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks to her city

Here’s a compilation of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ remarks during Friday’s news conference at which she announced that she would not seek reelection in November.

Reason for not running again:

“And I wish I could tell you there was a moment or that there was a thing, but when you have faith and you prayed for God’s wisdom and guidance, 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.”

On whether she was afraid of losing the election:

“I do know this is a decision made from a position of strength and not weakness. I raised the money, had the most successful fundraiser of any mayor in the history of this city with President Joe Biden. I’ve polled it. Nearly 70 percent of the people in this city still like me. If the race for mayor were held today, I would win this race without a runoff.”

On whether she would ever run for City Hall again:

“I can be mayor again, but there’s a reason that there are elections every four years, and in the same way the people have the opportunity to make the decision every four years, candidates also have the opportunity to make a decision.”

ExplorePhotos: Key moments in Keisha Lance Bottoms' term as mayor

On rumors of her taking a job with Walgreens:

“And what I know is that in the absence of my speaking my truth, people will insert a narrative, which is why I am here today. Roz Brewer is my girl. I love her dearly. But she didn’t get to be the CEO of Walgreens by offering jobs to random friends. I am not going to Walgreens in Chicago. [My husband] Derek is not going to Walgreens in Idaho. I can’t get Derek to move two miles off of Cascade Road. So I promise you that is not true.”

On her future:

“I do not know what the future holds for me. I know that I will be mayor until the first Tuesday in January. And what I have always said is that I want to leave this city better than I found it. So I will keep doing all of the things we have done each and every day. We’re going to keep working on affordable housing. We’re going to continue to work to make sure that people who are living on our streets have a home and the support of services that they need. And we are going to continue to do everything in our power to make this city safer.”

On whether her decision was based on family issues:

“Many questions have been asked, ‘is it something to do with my family?’ And I’ve told you all, my husband Derek -- who actually came out today. You all don’t get to see Derek very much – always said, ‘Whatever you do, I am with you. Just don’t mess up my good job.’ So last night, I said, ‘You know, you gotta take back over the health insurance benefits.’ He said, ‘I think I can handle that.’ And I’m grateful for that.

On if there was one thing that caused her to not run:

There was not one thing. I’ve talked about so much that, literally, that my husband told me he was not going to discuss it me anymore. I’m very grateful for the people who I have talked to and sought their counsel who kept my confidence. This is not something I woke up and decided yesterday. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time...A tornado came down my street. Literally, just a few days ago, and it was this reminder of moments and things are bigger than one person. And quite honestly, if there were a person who I knew could step up and be the mayor this city needs, I might have made another decision when I was offered a Cabinet position.”

May 3, 2021 Atlanta: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms surveys the damage on New Britain Drive in her neighborhood after a severe thunderstorm swept through the city on Monday morning May 3, 2021. A possible tornado tracked on the ground for several miles, starting in Douglas County and moved northeast through the city into northern DeKalb County, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologists. The National Weather Service will conduct a survey to confirm the tornado and determine its strength. In Atlanta, fire crews responded to a number of calls for trees down on homes and on the streets along the Cascade Road corridor. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
May 3, 2021 Atlanta: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms surveys the damage on New Britain Drive in her neighborhood after a severe thunderstorm swept through the city on Monday morning May 3, 2021. A possible tornado tracked on the ground for several miles, starting in Douglas County and moved northeast through the city into northern DeKalb County, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologists. The National Weather Service will conduct a survey to confirm the tornado and determine its strength. In Atlanta, fire crews responded to a number of calls for trees down on homes and on the streets along the Cascade Road corridor. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

On who should be the next mayor of Atlanta:

“The voters will decide who that person is. In my multitude of conversations with God, I’ve thought about this. But I am not God. I don’t know who else he’s speaking to and who else will take us to the next step. I have a pretty good idea of the people it should not be.”

On whether she talked to former Mayor Kasim Reed about her decision:

No.

On whether the criticism of her administration is fair:

“That comes with the territory. My kids criticize me. My house is a microcosm of the electorate...I can’t satisfy my own household, so criticism comes with the job. You shouldn’t put yourself out if you can’t take the criticism.”

On the highlights of the job:

This highlights have really been the last year. When this city faced the toughest of times, there was no playbook, there was no handbook. There was no leadership in the White House. We were at odds with the state. We stepped up and we did it the Atlanta way. We served 119,000 meals. We got $88 million in CARES Act funding. When was the last time the City of Atlanta has gotten that much money and there not be a scandal attached to it. Eighty million dollars of that went out into our communities. Our firefighters, our police officers, our sanitation workers never stopped working through the pandemic. The vast majority of our workforce never stopped in the midst of the pandemic. That makes me proud...We stood in the gap for so many people in what was toughest and the most difficult of times, and not having any blueprint on how to do it - and we got it right. That makes me proud.”

Is there a job for you that’s better than mayor of Atlanta?

“If there is, I don’t know it...And that is scary.

On her goals for public safety:

My goals for public safety are to make sure this city safe. We’ve had a very challenging year in this city. Unfortunately, we are not alone. Across the country we’ve seen a spike in crime and it has so much to do with people emerging from this pandemic. People have died. People are dealing with anxiety. They’re dealing with depression. Everybody’s house has not been a safe place for them. Some of us have found refuge in our homes, and for other people, it’s a nightmare.”

April 29, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talks with Wingate Companies CEO Mark Schuster during Station496 groundbreaking ceremony in Old Fourth Ward neighborhood on Thursday, April 29, 2021. The Wingate Companies announces groundbreaking for highly anticipated affordable multi-family community - Station 496 a high-quality affordable housing option in AtlantaÕs Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
April 29, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talks with Wingate Companies CEO Mark Schuster during Station496 groundbreaking ceremony in Old Fourth Ward neighborhood on Thursday, April 29, 2021. The Wingate Companies announces groundbreaking for highly anticipated affordable multi-family community - Station 496 a high-quality affordable housing option in AtlantaÕs Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

On what you would have done differently:

I likely would have asked for resignations sooner than 100 days into office. I would have changed the leadership team at City Hall much sooner. A hundred days was not that long, but I can say many of the challenges I saw on Day One were the challenges I faced on Day 100.

On being effective during the rest of her term:

I never had it easy in City Hall, that is just the reality. So, the challenges that I had on Day One will likely be the challenges on the way out the door. I’ve never cowered from a fight and I’ve never backed down from anything that was difficult.

On whether the decision to reinstate Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe played a role in her decision:

Absolutely not. The hard part was last year. I firmly believe it was the right decision [to fire him]. I stand by that.

When was the first time she realized that she might not run again?

“You know, it’s really interesting. I can’t say I heard a voice. It wasn’t like, ‘Noah, go build an ark.’ It wasn’t that. I’ve felt it my first year. I can’t describe it, but I wasn’t sure I’d run again.

On whether she liked being mayor:

I did. It’s a hard job. It’s a very hard job, but there are people who get up everyday and do things much harder than this. They don’t have the support and the team that I have around me. So, yeah, I love being mayor.

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