Atlanta mayoral contenders wrestle over how to be a regional leader

The mayor of Atlanta doesn’t just lead the city’s 500,000 or so residents. He or she is the de facto leader of the metro region’s nearly 6 million people.

That’s what made a question Wednesday posed to six of the leading candidates at a Council for Quality Growth forum so interesting. How will each candidate act as a regional leader?

Some were critical of term-limited incumbent Kasim Reed. Others vowed to play a more assertive role on the Atlanta Regional Commission. All vowed to be a mayor with a footprint far beyond the city’s borders. Here’s a look at their answers:

Former Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman: I’m going to be the convener in chief. I’m going to do everything I can to partner with people. We need a mayor who visits early and often going to the different places that are going to be vital to the success of the region.

City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms: Most people don’t know when the city’s lines begin and where they end. As the leader of Atlanta, the mayor sets the tone. As mayor I’ll work with the ARC and surrounding cities and other leaders. Not just when the cameras are rolling. But with respective leaders.

Former Fulton County chair John Eaves: I’ve been there done that. The current city mayor has been virtually absent in terms of regional cooperation the last eight years. As mayor of Atlanta, I’ll continue to work with regional partners.

City Councilmember Kwanza Hall: I’m not running against anybody. I’ve dealt with very difficult people and we’ve still been able to get things done. It requires making friends before you need them. You can count on me to be a mayor that brings people together.

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: Here’s the deal – I believe that getting things done as mayor requires you to be a friend and collaborator with your neighbors. I’m not going to have to introduce myself to the leadership there. We’re going to look for ways to do joint-purchasing, joint-planning to lower your costs.

City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: As the only independent in the race, I believe I’ll have the unique ability to transcend both sides of the aisle and work with everyone. It will be very important for the next mayor to leverage the dollars we get for transportation improvements.

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