Andre Dickens, 47, was officially sworn-in as the 61st Mayor of Atlanta Monday afternoon. The ceremony was held at his alma mater, the Georgia Institute of Technology inside Bobby Dodd Stadium.
While attendees braced for frigid temperatures and fifteen mile per hour winds, Dickens began his speech thanking his predecessors for their accomplishments. Beginning with William Hartsfield, Ivan Allen (also a graduate of Georgia Tech), Sam Massell, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr, Bill Campbell, Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed and the outgoing mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Dickens laid out his agenda which entailed the lack of affordable housing and crime while speaking to the fears that Atlanta will become the city of the haves versus the have nots.
“Now, our opponents are poverty, fear, inequality, violence, hopelessness, and homelessness,” Dickens said. “Each mayor, each mayor had their burden in mind to bring us together to form a safe, clean, thriving city and to restore our sense of community.”
Dickens also discussed the Buckhead City secession movement which will become the topic du jour as the state house’s legislative session begins in earnest next week. During his speech, Dickens used the Book of Nehemiah as a backdrop to describe his frustrations with building the wall around Jerusalem. There were people who were worried about the crumbling infrastructure, but in 52 days, the wall was built.
“They chose to work together to accomplish a difficult task. They chose to unify and not to divide,” Dickens said. “And we need to choose to do the same. We don’t need separate cities. I said we don’t need separate cities.”
“We must be one city with one bright future, one city with one bright future. We have survived hard times before. We’ve survived crime ways before we survived the missing and murdered children. When I was growing up. We survived Lester Maddox and his axe handle. We survived the Olympic Park bombing, and we will survive the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The fact Dickens invoked Lester Maddox in his speech was telling. Maddox was a segregationist. He ran for Mayor of Atlanta and failed each time, losing to William Hartsfield and Ivan Allen. Maddox ultimately became Governor of Georgia in 1966. January 1, Bill White, the CEO and face of the Buckhead City movement, has come under fire for endorsing comments by VDARE, a media outlet dedicated to the promulgation of anti-immigration and white supremacy beliefs.
Dickens said his administration will be focused on with an emphasis on balancing Safety and Justice. He also touted his Safe Streets Atlanta plan, which promises to hire 250 police officers in 2022. Additionally, Dickens promised he’d train officers in conflict resolution, de-escalation tactics and community policing beginning in the first quarter of 2022.
“First of all, as your mayor and with their help, I want to make sure that our city is safe,” Dickens said. “From Bankhead to Buckhead. I want to see our city be a place where little kids can play outside without being afraid of getting shot by a random bullet; where women can stop at a gas station and pump a few gallons of gas without fear of physical intimidation, and where an elderly can feel empowered to come outside of their homes and can enjoy a walk in the park on a sunny day.”
Also, the Atlanta City Council was sworn in during Monday’s ceremonies. Michael Julian Bond, Matt Westmoreland, Keisha Sean Waites, Jason Winston, Amir Farokhi, Byron Amos, Jason Dozier, Liliana Bakhtiari, Alex Wan, Howard Shook, Mary Norwood, Dustin Hillis, Andrea L. Bone, Antonio Lewis and Marci Collier Overstreet are the members of the council.
The new City Council President, Doug Shipman, was sworn in, succeeding the outgoing Felicia Moore.
“Freedom is never really one, you earn it in every generation,” said Shipman during his speech. “As we keep both of these terms in mind, mutual destiny is a never ending process. Now is the time to attack more problems, not on one another. Now is the time to focus on policies that will lift people not only projects, now is the time to build our collective sense of security, not just to address our individual insecurities.”
Notably, former Mayors Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed, and Keisha Lance Bottoms were in attendance. Bottoms paid homage to her predecessors and gave one charge to Dickens:
“May you be dedicated like Sam, a visionary like Maynard, courageous like Andy, brilliant like Bill, resolute like Shirley, bold like Kasim — and optimistic like me,” Bottoms said.