Food Bank Founder Bolling named Decatur commissioner

Atlanta Community Food Bank Founder Bill Bolling was named Decatur’s replacement commissioner Tuesday night, filling the vacancy left by Kecia Cunningham who resigned last month to take a job out of town.

Bolling was nominated by Commissioner Patti Garrett and quickly and unanimously approved by the four remaining elected commissioners. He’ll serve the remainder of Cunningham’s term through Dec. 31.

Cunningham’s permanent District 2 successor, to serve the full four-year term, will be determined in the Nov. 3 election between Brian Smith and James M. Johnson.

At the regularly scheduled meeting, Garrett was appointed to fill Cunningham’s role as mayor pro tem for the remainder of the year.

“I’ve never been interested in a political career,” Bolling told the AJC. “But I knew Kecia and admired her. This is a way to pay my civic rent.

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“I’ll try and be a good listener,” he added. “That’s basically what I’ve done my whole career.”

Bolling founded the ACFB in in 1979 when there were no other food banks in the state. He remained its only executive director for 36 years, until June, when he retired and was replaced by Kyle Waide, the food bank’s vice president of partner operations.

He and his wife Haqiqa (Arabic for path of truth), a longtime counselor at Renfroe Middle School, moved into their Decatur home on Kings Highway in 1984, when that street was populated mostly by African Americans and was sometimes derisively called “the other side of the tracks.” Here the Bollings raised two children, both now adults, who attended City Schools Decatur all they way through.

Bolling has never held political office, though he’s been approached a number of times.

“I’ve been asked to run for congress, and even mayor of Atlanta,” he said. “But ultimately I asked myself how I could have the most influence. At the [AFB] I’ve worked across political and class divisions. I’ve worked with governors, and I worked on the streets for six years, and in the end built up a wide range of trust.”

By the time Bolling left the non-profit, it was serving 29 counties, he said, while becoming the equivalent of a $100 million company. It now has 150 employees, 20,000 volunteers and feeds approximately 125,000 families a week.

Though retired he’s hardly gone cold turkey on feeding people. Bolling recently started the Food Well Alliance and hired a staff developed around the fresh food movement. He emphasizes his time on the Decatur city commission is strictly temporary.

“I hope this isn’t construed as a political move,” Bolling said. It’s a civic move, an opportunity, a chance, to give back to the community that has supported me.

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