Mayor Kasim Reed on the Long History and Renewed Vitality of Atlanta's Commitment to Service

April 02, 2014
| by Editor |

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spent a busy first term grappling with ongoing challenges inherited from earlier administrators: filling out an understaffed police force, reforming the city’s unfunded pension liability, and turning around a $48 million budget shortfall. But he also found time—and startup funds, through the nationwide Cities of Service initiative—to make an impressive renewal of the city’s commitment to service: creating a cabinet-level Chief Service Officer position to head up five new service initiatives dedicated to educating and empowering youth, revitalizing neighborhoods, and promoting environmental sustainability.

Image courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution © Bob Andres

Just a few days after his 2014 inauguration, Mayor Reed talked with GCN President and CEO Karen Beavor about the long history and renewed vitality of Atlanta's committment to service, the progress his administration has seen as a result, and the opportunities for more nonprofit partnerships in his second terms. Below, we've included a few excerpts from the full interview, which members can read in the Winter 2014 issue of Georgia Nonprofit NOW.

On Atlanta's history of thoughtful elected, business and service leaders

"If you look at our city’s history, certainly during the tumultuous times of the late 1950s of the 1960s, for a southern city, Atlanta was very forward thinking. I think that has a great deal to do with the fact that we had very enlightened elected leaders like Mayor Hartsfield, Mayor Ivan Allen, and subsequently Mayor Maynard Jackson. And we had very forward-thinking business leaders, such as the founder of Coca-Cola Company, Robert Woodruff, and a list of his successors. If you recall, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize, the chairman of Coca-Cola hosted a reception for him and invited the leaders of the business community and philanthropic community in Atlanta. That was a very important event—maybe the most significant integrated event in the life of the city. When Bull Conner and others were making different decisions in Birmingham, Ala., which used to be a larger, more prosperous city than Atlanta, Mayor Ivan Allen went to Washington to testify in favor of the Civil Rights Act."

On the establishment of a Chief Service Officer position in his first term

"You don’t want a temporary solution to long-term problems or long-term relationships. That’s why Amy Phuong isn’t just the Chief Service Officer, she is also a member of my cabinet—so she is able to get a global perspective of what the city of Atlanta is doing in a variety of areas. She also gives the nonprofit community a “one-stop shop” to decide how they would like to engage with the city. I believe we send a clear, unmistakable message to the nonprofit community, that if you want a strong partner, someone who has similar values and a strong sense of mission, then the doors to the city of Atlanta are open. And I hope the people who read this article will know that we have a highly qualified leader in the form of Amy Phuong, who works at this every day."

On the future of Atlanta's nonprofit sector

"I think we have a vibrant nonprofit community. Obviously we are the home to you all, home of The Boys & Girls Club of America, CARE, which is one of the leading service delivery organization in the world, Points of Lights, Habitat for Humanity, and Hands on Network, among others. That really speaks to who we are. I would like to see Atlanta play a greater role as we begin to explore “social impact bonds,” which is a tool that is gathering support in other cities around the world and in major cities in the U.S."

GCN members may read more of Mayor Reed's interview or listen to the podcast by logging in and viewing Another Term of Service from the Winter 2014 issue of Georgia Nonprofit NOW.

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