Voters Assemble a Renewed City Council; Retire Winslow, Sheperd
Graphic by Adrian Paulette Coleman, Atlanta Progressive News.
(APN) ATLANTA – The voters of Atlanta have expressed their desire for change in this year’s 2021 City of Atlanta Municipal General and Run-off Elections. In last Tuesday’s Run-off, voters retired two long-time incumbents and elected several progressive newcomers.
Progressive newcomers include Jason Winston, District 1; former Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Member Byron Amos, District 3; Jason Dozier, District 4; Lilliana Bakhtiari, District 5; Antonio Lewis, District 12; and former State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), Post 3-at-large.
Incumbents Cleta Winslow (District 4) and Joyce Sheperd (District 12) were not reelected, in a stunning rejection, the most significant since the voters retired Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large) and Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large) in 2013.
Winston got 52 percent of the vote; Nathan Clubb got 48 percent.
“To ALL the people of District 1, thank you for choosing me to be your next city council representative. I am truly honored and grateful,” Winston said in a statement emailed to supporters.
“I can promise you that I’ll be listening to all the communities of our district–from Grant Park to Ormewood Park to South Atlanta to Browns Mill, and everywhere in between–as we work for a better future for all our city’s residents,” Winston said.
“I am excited to serve the District but also humbled by the turnout. It shows we have a lot of work to do together to unify and build our district,” Amos told APN.
Estrada did well in the upper-class, predominantly White neighborhoods of Home Park, Atlantic Station, and Knight Park / Howell Station. Amos did well in all other parts of the District, which are middle-class or lower-class and mostly populated by racial minorities.
“I understand we’re dealing with the third Councilmember in the last [four] years. For our district not to suffer an identity crisis, part of our neighborhood preservation plan is to ask, who are we as District Three? What are the morals and values of District Three, no matter what changes and who the Councilmember is?” Amos said.
Winslow, the current longest-serving member of Council, will be replaced by Jason Dozier. The vote was 62 percent to 38 percent.
Winslow referred to members of the public who make public comments at Council Meetings as “the asylum… being run by the people who are ill”; seemed unmoved by findings of ethics violations; and never saw a large development being pushed by an Atlanta Mayoral administration that she could not support.
“As I leave office within the next 30 days, I want to thank each of you for the 27 years that you supported me with your vote. It has been my honor and privilege to have humbly served you all these years as a public servant,” Winslow wrote in an email to constituents.
“You helped me achieve a very special status by being the longest serving female on the Atlanta City Council since Atlanta was founded in 1847,” Winslow said.
“You have given me many years of joy as we grew the district together. With our combined efforts, we have moved the district forward and it is much stronger and more resilient now than when I took office in 1994. Because of this work, we have been able to attract more people into the district and brought in the kind of quality retail and restaurants that we’d envisioned for so many years,” she said.
“You now have an opportunity to work with the new leadership that successfully won the seat on November 30. I have always respected the choice of the Voter.
“May God continue to shine His light not only on District 4 but on the entire city of Atlanta,” Winslow wrote.
Howard Shook (District 7) will now be the longest-serving Councilmember on the Council; and the only one to have served consecutively since at least 2005, the year that Atlanta Progressive News began reporting.
In further indication of the Council’s newness, Shook and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) will now be the only Councilmembers to have served consecutively since at least 2010.
In District Twelve, we experienced a shocker, as the voters elected a young activist, Antonio Lewis over long-time incumbent Joyce Sheperd, in a vote of sixty percent to forty percent.
Lewis has ties to both Councilman Antonio Brown (District 3), having served on the People’s Uprising that Brown founded; and to former Mayor Shirley Franklin, having interned for her while she was Mayor.
“You can’t snap a finger and it’s going to resolve itself,” Sheperd said.
In a citywide shocker, former State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) was elected to the Post 3-at-large seat over Jacki Labat, in a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent.
Some had counted former Rep. Waites out because of several prior elections in which Waites came close to winning in the General Election but could not prevail in the Run-off, including races for Fulton County Commissioner, Fulton County Chair, and U.S. Congress.
However, Waites was ecstatic at the Run-off results. “This Council, if you noticed is the most diverse Council and the most progressive Council. As a fellow progressive, I’m excited about moving things forward,” Waites told APN.
“It’s my hope with this particular new Council, we can strike a new tone. We’ve kicked the can with homelessness and affordable housing and have not moved the conversation forward,” she said.
“I’m excited about improving the NPU process and giving NPUs a voice,” she said, referring to the City’s Neighborhood Planning Units.
“I want to change the tone and trajectory of people not being welcome at City Hall. My office I’m converting into a conference room, Post 3 will not have an office, it will have a conference room,” Waites said.
“Elections are often about who spends the most money. This race was about more than money and endorsements. My opponent probably got ninety percent of the endorsements out there, and I was probably out-fundraised ten to one,” Waites said.
“When you see twenty, thirty year incumbents were not successful, it’s an indictment. The voters said, we want change and we want it right now,” Waites said.
“I take that very seriously and when you see voters take that type of change that is so dramatic, the bar has been raised by the voters, they’re saying, we are paying attention,” Waites said.
WHITHER THE NOD SQUAD?
Altogether, the “nod squad”–Councilmembers who strongly tend to support the Mayor–has been reduced by two votes.
By APN’s count, the Administration-friendly group on the new Council would normally tend to include Winston, Amos, Andrea Boone (District 10), Marci Overstreet (District 11), and Bond; and sometimes Alex Wan (District 6) [Wan grew to be more pro-administration when he was running against Felicia A. Moore for Council President in 2017].
However, it is not immediately clear how even this group will react to Mayor-Elect Andre Dickens, given that he was not the machine’s first choice.
At the same time, Dickens may garner the support of many other Councilmembers: his alliance while on Council tended to be with Councilmembers more critical of the administration like Amir Farokhi (District 2) and Matt Westmoreland (Post 2-at-large), who were both reelected.
Additionally, Councilman-elect Lewis may be an ally to Dickens, given their mutual ties to former Mayor Franklin.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)