Bottoms prepares for White House exit maintaining loyalty to Biden, Atlanta

When former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed last summer to take a job at the White House, she expected to serve just a few months through the midterm elections.

But she extended her tenure as director of the Office of Public Engagement and senior adviser to President Joe Biden several times. What she originally thought would be a November exit date stretched to the end of this month.

Bottoms is leaving the White House, she says, but not the president’s orbit. She expects to remain an insider and cheerleader as he contemplates a reelection campaign, but one who will no longer be obligated to make weekly trips to Washington that kept her away from her family in Atlanta.

“I will always be supportive of the president, and I look forward to us figuring out what that looks like in this next season of life for me,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.

Bottoms joined the administration during a time when Biden’s approval ratings were sagging and Democrats worried he would drag the ticket down during the midterms. Bottoms said her plan upon arriving was to help engage people so that they understand what the White House is doing to improve their lives while also listening to their feedback to determine what could be done better, especially as the country entered a post-COVID-19 era.

During her first days on the job, she worked from a closet at her home in Atlanta because it was the only place she could get reliable internet access. In Washington, she invited various groups to the White House for tours and meetings, and she launched an effort to host events in every state that will continue under her replacement, Steven Benjamin, the former mayor of Columbia, South Carolina.

It has all paid off, Bottoms said.

“I’m pleased to say when you look at the data and you look at where we were in June with 35% approval ratings, our approval ratings, they’re much higher,” she said. “I think the last time I checked they were about eight points higher.”

Biden also sought Bottoms’ opinion and continues to include her in discussions on topics such as the police killing of Tyre Nichols, the debt ceiling and even the recent collapse of two banks.

And that also means Bottoms has been clear with Biden on her support for Atlanta hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2024. The final decision is up to the president, and the other two finalists are Chicago and New York City.

“I will always be a former mayor of Atlanta,” Bottoms said. “There obviously are so many things that go into considering whether or not to choose one location over the other at the end of the day. This is a decision that will be made by the head of our party and that is the president, so the president is very clear on where I stand. And I think the rest of the senior team is clear on where my preference is.”