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Shirley Franklin

(b. 1945)

Given that Mayor Franklin’s motto was “Ask not what the city can do for you, but what you can do for the city,” it’s fitting that she won a Kennedy Library Foundation Profiles in Courage award. From 2002 to 2010, she raised taxes, slashed services, cut jobs, reduced her own staff and salary, and enacted tough ethics reform. Her legacy? Sewers. Franklin balanced the budget and won the adoration of national media. The honeymoon lasted well into her second term. The press was not kind when Atlanta started losing jobs, or when her daughter’s ex-husband faced federal drug charges.

Head of the Class The first time Franklin ever ran for public office, she was elected mayor of Atlanta—making her the first African American female mayor of a large Southern city.

This article originally ran in the May 2011 issue.