A Profile On Mayor Kasim Reed
With a population of 537,958 people (in 2008), Atlanta, Georgia, is listed as the thirty-third largest city in the nation. This thriving metropolis is known for its rich cultural diversity as well as its heritage and hospitality. At the helm of its political activity is Kasim Reed, the fifty- ninth mayor of Atlanta. Reed assumed office on January 4, 2010, succeeding Shirley Franklin, who had served in this position for eight years.
Reed’s interest in public service stems from his parents. “My father and mother were involved in the civil rights movement in South Carolina,” he says. The 41-year-old mayor recollects his father always talking about people such as Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was a young boy and then realized he should also care about helping others.
Reed began to stand out as a natural-born leader during his academic career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. According to a June 6, 1991, Washington Post article, he took a big step toward his future when he learned about a federal dollar-for-dollar matching grant program while completing an internship with Rep. Joseph Patrick Kennedy II (D-Mass.). As an undergraduate representative on Howard’s board of trustees, Reed proposed that students voluntarily agree to a $15/semester student fee increase that the United States Congress would match. These monies would then be earmarked toward the university endowment. The fees at that time were expected to total nearly $300,000 per semester, or about $2.4 million dollars over four years. Needless to say, Reed is still a member of the Howard University board of trustees who earned his baccalaureate degree in political science in 1991, and then a juris doctorate in 1995. Reed has also excelled as an entrepreneur, earning $40,000 running a jewelry business while he was a sophomore. He was also invited to comment on the Persian Gulf War military strategy on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and was featured in Black Enterprise magazine. “My experiences at Howard played a very vital role in my education, and prepared me for where I am today,” he shared.
A pathway of politics
Reed’s political career has been an admirable one. He was the leading vote-getter in the 1998 Democratic primary for the Georgia House of Representatives, ultimately earning him the victory in that general election. He served as a state representative for five years. In 2001, while continuing to serve as a state representative, Reed served as the campaign manager for Shirley Franklin’s election to become Atlanta’s fifty-eighth mayor. In 2003 he was elected as a state senator representing the 35th district where he served for seven years. Reed feels that his prior political positions “served as training bodies.”
“You learn how to represent your ideas. There is a certain code of ethics and decorum that is expected in the house and senate that helps you move your agenda in a professional and aggressive way,” he said.
After experiencing success in the Georgia legislature, Reed set his sights on becoming Atlanta’s mayor. “Several people whose opinion I valued encouraged me, which included my family, Ambassador Andrew Young, and former mayor Shirley Franklin,” he shared. Experiences in his mayoral campaign taught him “endurance and mental toughness—toughness in the sense of reaching my goal and trusting in my faith.” He was finally declared the winner of the mayoral race on December 9, 2009, after a close-call race between him and Mary Norwood.
His community and his faith
For one who has grown up in metropolitan Atlanta, Mayor Reed sees the importance of investing in its young people. “I want to place young people and children at the center of our culture. We are losing too many lives to violence—putting an entire generation at risk. We need gifted people to come behind us and continue the forward move, and if they are not there and prepared, we all lose,” he said.
He also believes that God will help in his commitment to youth and their footprint in society. “My faith in God is the framework for everything that I seek to accomplish. My life is ordered by my faith in God, and my commitment to improving the lives of others. It gives me order, discipline, and guidance,” he said.