Mayoral runoff candidates put city officials on notice: Earn your job or lose it

It’s not unusual for a new mayor to shake things up upon inauguration, although Moore and Dickens’s promises to overhaul the City Hall hierarchy represent a desire to distinguish themselves from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her administration’s agenda

473
Andre Dickens Felicia Moore Runoff Debate
Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore at the Atlanta Press Club Debate

Screenshot via Atlanta Press Club/Facebook

Some Atlanta City Hall officials might want to polish their resumes before the next mayor takes office, as the incoming chief will likely be canning some top-level employees.

During the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Tuesday night, the two mayoral runoff candidates—City Council President Felicia Moore and Councilmember Andre Dickens—both said, once they take inventory of the municipal leadership structure, at least a few cabinet members and department heads would be getting the axe.

It’s not unusual for a new mayor to shake things up upon inauguration—a chief of staff, for instance, is of course hand-picked by the chief—although Moore and Dickens’s promises to overhaul the City Hall hierarchy represent a desire to distinguish themselves from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her administration’s agenda. It also harks back to when Bottoms herself demanded resignation letters from all 35 members of her cabinet in April 2018—part of an effort to distance herself from the corruption scandal that ensnared City Hall during former Mayor Kasim Reed’s second term.

“I have individuals in my head whose resignation [letters] I would ask for,” Dickens said Tuesday. “There will be only a few that I know of that I will retain. I’ve been there for eight years, I know how this city is run, and I understand we’re going to need new leadership in some of the departments, as well as the cabinet.” He said he’ll probe the public and private sectors for individuals that are “extremely ethical in how they do their business.”

Moore said, “The day after I’m elected, I’m starting to look at who is in place and who will be replaced . . . it won’t be a wholesale replacement; we will do it over time.”

Neither candidate would say who exactly who will stay or go—“I would want to give the benefit of what they have done and what they are working on,” Moore said of current officials—but it’s safe to say some officials—including those who were recruited from out of state to lead Atlanta departments—will be on the job hunt soon.

Atlanta Housing CEO Eugene Jones, who came here from the City of Chicago’s housing authority in 2019, is among those who might be worried about job security right now. Dickens said, if he’s elected, Jones will get a 100-day contract, giving him less than four months to prove he’s the best person for the job, or else seek work elsewhere. The same goes for Police Chief Rodney Bryant and others, Dickens said Tuesday.

City planning commissioner Tim Keane—a Reed appointee who claimed the gig in 2015—could also have to fight for his job after the November 30 runoff election. Although Moore didn’t say who she’s eying for retention or termination, she’s voiced consternation with an ongoing zoning code rewrite that aims to pave the way for more dense development and diversify the city’s housing stock with options that today are scarce.

And though Dickens, too, shied away from naming names, he said during the debate that the city needs to find better ways to spur “development without displacement” and drift from the trend of awarding public incentives, such as tax breaks, to projects that probably don’t need them to be realized. It’s unclear what that could mean for Eloisa Klementich, CEO of the city’s economic development arm Invest Atlanta, which authorizes some of that public support. She’s served the agency since 2011, during Reed’s first term.

Asked after the debate about how much the so-called cloud of corruption looming over City Hall after the Reed administration played a role in his plan to rethink Atlanta’s leadership structure, Dickens told Atlanta magazine, “Mayor Bottoms and the Feds were able to reduce the amount of corruption from occurring from the previous administration.”

Moore, however, said she thinks there are “remnants of the past that need to be removed, and they will be removed. I’m going to have a city government that is going to operate ethically, honestly.”

Advertisement