ATLANTA — The beginning of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' time in office may feel like a very long time ago. It was marked by a ransomware attack on the city, Atlanta becoming a finalist for Amazon's second headquarters and the city hosting the Super Bowl.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Despite having the city often under a national spotlight and significant challenges over the last couple of years, Bottoms said she checked off many of the items she wanted to accomplish while in office.
Bottoms entered office in January of 2018. Some of her pledges included improving transparency inside city hall, fighting homelessness, and investing $1 billion in affordable housing.
"The reality is when I made the announcement in May that I would not seek reelection I was able to get through my agenda quicker than I was able to my entire term," Bottoms said, describing her final year in office as an exclamation point on her tenure as mayor.
Bottoms staff said since 2018 more than 7,000 affordable housing units have been created or preserved across the city and more than $700 million in public funds have been directed to affordable housing. A big dent in a $1 billion goal, which was part of an 8-year plan, Bottoms said.
As she leaves office, Atlanta's mayor is hopeful mayor-elect Andre Dickens will push forward her affordable housing focus.
"We poured millions of dollars into that area and the need still continues, but again we have the numbers and receipts to show how well we have done with that," Bottoms said.
On the topic of new development, Bottoms said her administration approved 32,000 permits totaling $21 billion in new construction city-wide. She highlighted 30 percent pay raises for police officers, 25 percent raises for firefighters, and pay raises for 911 call center operators as major accomplishments.
For transparency, she pointed to her administration creating the first Chief Transparency Office for the city and also launching Open Checkbook — an online portal that allows anyone to view the city's expenses.
Bottoms said certain issues her office worked to address may always exist, but they were still priorities for her. For example, while she didn't eliminate income inequality, she said she recently announced and launched guaranteed income and child savings account programs.
"There are issues that will likely always be part of society by nature of us being a large community, but it doesn't give us permission to not do everything we can to address those issues," Bottoms explained.
During her time in office, there was scrutiny though, which climaxed during social unrest in 2020 with protests, that at times turned violent. The protests occurred after police shot and killed Rayshard Brooks and then 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was killed when people armed with guns blocked the street near the killing of Brooks in protest.
"If there was anything that could have been done to save a child's life of course I would do something differently," Bottoms said while reflecting on the summer of 2020. "But given where we were and what I assessed the situation to be at that time, I made what I thought were the right decisions at that time."
Bottoms' final day in office is scheduled for Jan. 3, when Dickens will be sworn-in as Atlanta's 61st mayor.
Bottoms, who endorsed Dickens campaign during the mayoral runoff, is hopeful he won't walk back many of the programs she sees as accomplishments of her administration. She said she served on the city council with Dickens and has a very good personal relationship with him.
"What I do know from his time as a councilmember and even our discussions during the transition, he values equity," Bottoms said.
To help create continuity between mayors, Bottoms said her Chief Operating Officer Jon Keen will transition to working with the Dickens administration for at least three months and will be able to answer questions about why certain decisions and actions were taken during Bottoms time in office.
In late 2020 it seemed possible Bottoms wouldn't see the end of her term as she was considered for various roles with the White House after Joe Biden was elected as president. In the end, Bottoms said she is glad she stayed at city hall.
"I'm very thankful that I was able to finish my term as mayor. That was a huge part of my consideration, stepping out of my term and who would lead our city and I'm grateful that I've been able to see it to the end," Bottoms said.
Despite not taking a role with the White House, Bottoms said she continues to have a very strong relationship with President Biden. She pointed to the president, vice president, and several cabinet members all visiting Atlanta to talk about a wide range of issues over the past year.
"I don’t know when an administration has had this much presence in the City of Atlanta, not under the last administration it didn’t happen and I can’t speak to administrations before that," Bottoms said. "So I’m thankful for the relationship, and thankful that Atlanta is top of mind for the administration."