Opinion: Thoughts on selecting Atlanta’s next mayor

Since the city of Atlanta’s state charter was revised in 1974 to what’s called a “strong mayor, weak council” system, the head of this city has been the focal point of power (and image) for Atlanta and its environs. Who we select December 5th will pretty much determine the direction we take for the ensuing four years; thus we’re in the final hours of deliberation.

So what should we wish will be the profile of the winner in our selection process? The beginning point for a person in this position must be unimpeachable integrity, for if you can’t trust the one in charge why would you believe the guidance to be beneficial?

It is sometimes overlooked, but the one “in charge” is actually working for us, so that position must be transparent in order for the constituency to be in a position to measure the desirability of its direction. It may not sound popular to many public officials, but such an open environment will work best if the leader develops a working relationship with area news media to provide abundant availability.

Of particular importance to our city with its ever-increasing diversity in population is that the heart and mind need to be void of prejudice. Our mayor must be able to exude a comfort level with persons of all walks of life, in order to represent them all equally.

Remember that a culture allowing an arrogant attitude by a water department respondent, or excessive display of power by a traffic policeman, or a hint of favoritism in issuance of a permit would stem from the top down, so cast your vote for the mayor most likely to set a tone protecting against such behavior.

The executive branch of our city, like the top of any organization, must recognize personal limitations to know when to call in those who are experts in various fields to come to the aid of the issues at hand. Fortunately, in a city of Atlanta’s size, we have professional organizations in every conceivable field available to help on a pro bono arrangement.

Frugality is also a favorite factor I like to find in those who represent me because I’ve been through low economic periods as well as those of great prosperity. We now find our city in a very healthy financial condition, and it behooves our mayor to protect what’s at hand.

Knowing the large size of our city and its varied interests, it is extremely important that City Hall’s leadership must have the energy to cover all corners to maintain a true sensitivity to the pulse of the people of the city. [I think it’s mentioned in my just-published biography that when I was mayor, I would treat my office staff to lunch every open date if they took me to a part of the City I hadn’t visited].

My personal work ethic covers eight decades from age nine operating a Coca-Cola stand to now at 90 managing the Buckhead Coalition – around the middle of such time I spent 22 years in elected offices – which I mention because the voter must beware of a candidate who thinks the campaign is the hard work, as she has seen nothing compared to a four-year term in the mayor’s chair! It has major pressures, and the person we select must be able to address this daily grind with a public persona that exudes goodwill for this place we all love so much.

The election fate is just two days away, so block out about 25 minutes on Tuesday’s schedule now to get this duty reserved. The process is nonpartisan by law, so don’t let that issue get in your way. Offer to take someone with you to help elect the one you think will do the best job, and proudly wear the verification sticker afterwards.

Sam Massell was Atlanta’s mayor from 1970 to 1974.

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