Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms formally announced her intention to not seek re-election following her first term in office during a press conference on Friday morning. The official announcement followed a statement Bottoms tweeted Thursday night touting her faith as the guiding principle behind what she would ultimately call “a very difficult decision.”
During Friday’s press conference, Bottoms, 51, offered a glimpse into her own future as well as that of Atlanta leadership in terms of who might succeed her in City Hall.
“I don’t know what’s next,” Bottoms said, “but this is a decision made from a position of strength and not weakness.”
Later, after reporters asked her what helped her decide, Bottoms — who has recently been on the receiving end of backlash because of an ongoing citywide crime wave — insisted it wasn’t just “one thing” that helped her to make her decision.
“This is not something I woke up and decided yesterday,” she said. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.” She would add later: “I felt it my first year.”
Bottoms said this week’s tornado in Atlanta a premonition of sorts and called it “a reminder that moments and things are bigger than one person.”
Speaking of that “one person,” Bottoms suggested she was unsure who could do the job and alluded to after the presidential election when Joe Biden won asked her to be a part of his administration. She said she would have accepted the cabinet position “if there was a person I knew could step up” and be mayor.
“The voters will decide who that person is,” she said before adding: “I have a pretty good idea of the people it should not be, but that will be for the voters of Atlanta to decide.”
When asked if she consulted with former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — her predecessor — Bottoms’ answer was succinct: “No.”
Reed, whose embattled administration was dealing with a bribery and corruption scandal, has been increasingly rumored as a potential mayoral candidate, even before Bottoms’ announcement Thursday night.
Two people have already declared their mayoral candidacies: City Council President Felicia Moore and attorney Sharon Gay. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that City Councilman Antonio Brown was also considering a run.
Bottoms’ tweet confirming reports she wouldn’t seek re-election came one day after the city’s Civil Service Board reversed her firing of a police officer who killed an unarmed Black man by shooting him in the back last summer. But she said that news didn’t factor in her decision against seeing re-election and insisted she would fire him again if given the opportunity.
“I firmly believe it was the right decision,” Bottoms said. “I disagree with the ruling” to reinstate him.
Aside from speculation about the next mayor, Bottoms also addressed rumors about what she will be doing next.
She shot down reports about her and her husband joining her friend, Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer, working for the pharmacy chain giant.
Bottoms also left the door open for another run for mayor. Coting polling numbers, she said she was confident she would be re-elected.
“Just because you can do it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it,” Bottoms said. “I can be mayor again.”
But in an indication that another run mayor was not imminent, Bottoms said her donors would be getting a letter informing them she would be returning the funds they contributed to her campaign for re-election.
That led reporters to ask, again, what’s next for her.
“I don’t know what it is,” Bottoms said, admitting “that is scary.”
But, she added: “It’s not faith if you know what’s on the other side.”
Bottoms drew on that same faith when she was asked what advice she had specifically for young Black girls witnessing her decision.
“There is a divine voice that lives inside of each of us. For me, I know that it’s my compass,” Bottoms said. “It becomes less and less important what other people think.”