Reed returns to his ‘dream job’

Four years after an improbable run that saw him rise from a relative unknown to mayor of Atlanta by the slimmest of margins, Kasim Reed won re-election Tuesday in landslide fashion.

The last time Reed stood before voters, he was fighting for his political life. Now, as a two-term mayor, he’s fighting for his legacy.

The mayor-turned-kingmaker has spent his influence and campaign cash in recent months to get his allies re-elected and opponents ousted. Reed, 44, easily dispatched his three rivals: Al Bartell, Fraser Duke and Glenn S. Wrightson.

“I am so happy, I don’t know what to do,” a beaming Reed said to the victory party crowd at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

“Four years ago, all of you had to stay up late to find the results. Tonight, we’re sending you home early.”

Left to be determined are the makeup of the Atlanta City Council, which Reed leaned on heavily during his first term to realize his vision and agenda; and of the Atlanta Board of Education.

Reed focused his efforts on those local races in recent months, donating money from his multimillion-dollar campaign fund to allies while dumping tens of thousands of dollars into a super PAC to support friends and combat opponents.

Reed, known for his brash and at-times bullish leadership style, has every incentive to shape the council and school board as he seeks support for his long-term goals.

After successfully selling voters on the success of his first term, highlighted by overhauling the city’s employee pension program, pushing through a billion-dollar proposal to build a new football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons and beefing up the Atlanta Police Department, Reed said new challenges await.

One of the biggest, he said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is a staggering $900 million infrastructure backlog that he says will likely require outside funding to help repair some roads and bridges.

Former Mayor Andrew Young, a Reed confidant and mentor, said the stakes are high in a second Reed term for both the city and the region. Although unemployment in the area continues to outpace national averages, Young said the city of Atlanta remains the economic engine for this part of the country.

“This city has carried the burden of the whole Southeast.”

Growing business, Reed said, is a primary challenge for his second term.

“The next step is to grow startup companies. The next step is to build and repair our roads and bridges,” Reed said.

Reed’s political future will be determined by the next four years, said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie.

“If he has hopes for a higher office, he is going to have to top his first-term successes and finish strong,” Gillespie said.

Reed calls his job as mayor his “dream job” and he says he has no interest in other offices.

“I really wanted to be mayor, since I was 13,” Reed said. “I never viewed this job as a stepping stone.”