By Sean Keenan, contributor
The Buckhead Coalition’s favored mayoral candidate, Mary Norwood, didn’t win the job after Atlanta’s crazy contest, but the business group is welcoming the winner, Keisha Lance Bottoms, with open arms.
On Jan. 31, about a year after the Coalition hosted the eight-strong slate of mayoral hopefuls, and three months after it endorsed then-Councilwoman Norwood’s bid, Bottoms took the stage as keynote speaker of organization’s annual luncheon.
The theme of the event: “Atlanta Together”
Coalition President and ex-Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell told “Atlanta Loop” that the luncheon doesn’t usually have a theme. But after a polarizing mayoral race – Norwood claimed most of the votes in the more affluent northern half of the city, while Bottoms took the southside – Massell said it’s time to come together.
Bottoms told the crowd, mostly comprised of businesspeople and local politicians, that she’s here to ensure all parts of Atlanta grow together, rather than let the north prosper while the south struggles. She said she and City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents Buckhead, resent that development is faster-paced in the wealthier parts of Atlanta.
“Howard and I would often joke when we talked about the [city’s] progress, and I would get frustrated about what was or was not happening in southwest Atlanta,” she said. “Howard would promise me that, if he could, he would pack up some cranes and ship them over to southwest Atlanta.”
She said that joke resonated when she established her campaign platform.
“That really became a theme for the campaign, how important it is that we all care about what’s happening in each of our communities because it impacts all of us,” she said. “We know that when Buckhead is strong, the south side is strong; and we know that when the south side is strong, we know that the north side is strong. And so I am committed to ensure that we work together to make sure that our entire city is as strong as it can be.”
Bottoms also said the southside needs some serious help if the Atlanta aims to make all its communities “destination communities.”
“The reason that we sometimes encounter traffic in Buckhead is that we don’t have great places to dine and to shop in other areas in our city,” she said. “The reason that young families choose not to move to the southside of Atlanta is because their school choices are not always as solid as other places in the city.”
Juanita Baranco, the Coalition’s chair, said that Bottoms stance on public safety “is in complete alignment with the Buckhead Coalition’s,” noting the new mayor’s plan to crack down on crime begins with education reform.
Newly-elected Council President Felicia Moore said in an interview that, despite the socioeconomic and racial disparities evidenced by the mayoral race results, there are plenty of Atlantans who just want leadership with principles and aren’t focused on the race of their public officials.
“If you look at the east side you see very clearly, some areas there was a 50-50 match up, where there was white as well as black constituencies, so there are people who are embracing the leadership for their character and what they bring to the table instead of their race,” she said.
Moore also said that Wednesday’s event was “a great start” to a new era.
“[The Buckhead Coaltion] wanted to make sure they acknowledge the new mayor and the new leadership, and say that Buckhead is willing to be a partner with the south side, the east side, the west side, the north side so we can get things done,” she said.
Shook supported that sentiment and said he has faith that the city’s new leaders will help end the polarity seen at the polls a few weeks ago.
“I think the new people have really showed up looking for ways to make the city one and end those divisions,” he told “Atlanta Loop.”