He was elected Atlanta’s 59th mayor in 2009 by precisely 714 votes. Such a razor-thin margin might prompt another politician to take office in a spirit of caution, if not outright humility. Kasim Reed is not another politician. His elbows-out style has alienated some Atlantans, but the man gets results. One of his first wins was reining in pension payouts, a move that caused city employees to sue (so far unsuccessfully) but saved the city $270 million. It’s no small part of why Atlanta now has more than $138 million in cash reserves—18 times what it did when he took office. Reed’s executive power may end at the city limits (a city that’s home to just one out of every 12 metro Atlantans), but his influence extends statewide, thanks in part to his unprecedented collaboration—friendship, even—with Governor Deal. Reed also leveraged his stature as a prominent Democrat to successfully lobby the Obama administration for federal funds to deepen the Savannah port.
Mixed Bag T-SPLOST, the referendum for a regional sales tax that would have funded $8.5 billion in transportation projects, was soundly defeated in 2012 despite his—and Deal’s—dogged campaigning. And even though Reed helped ensure the next Falcons stadium would be built downtown, it’s under his watch that the Braves will desert Turner Field for Cobb County.
This article originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.