ATLANTA -- Friday, Keisha Lance Bottoms sat for an interview in her transition suite set up in Atlanta City Hall. She will be sworn in January 2. Her interview with 11Alive's Doug Richards was her first since early Wednesday, following her 759 vote runoff victory.
What follows is a transcript of their conversation.
11Alive News: What’s the last couple of days been like?
Keisha Lance Bottoms: Coming back down to reality. It’s still very exciting. Very busy. I expected to get a little sleep after election day and I still haven’t gotten much sleep. But we have a transition to concern ourselves with. We’ve moved from the campaign right into the transition so it’s been a lot busier than I expected.
Q: Been able to catch up on personal stuff the last couple of days?
A: No. Not at all.
A: Overwhelming. I have 849 text messages that I haven’t read. And I don’t know how many voice mails I have. Lots of missed calls.
Q: From around the country or locally, in town?
A: From around the country. Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) sent me a very nice message. The president of Florida A&M University, where I graduated from, sent flowers. The Lt. Governor-elect in Virginia sent some well wishes. So it’s been very nice. And that’s in addition to all the wonderful people in Atlanta who have been very gracious in offering their congratulations.
Do you know what doing this transition will be like yet?
A: No I don’t. But I suspect I’ll figure it out very soon. We only have a short period of time. Swearing in is January 2nd. So all of the same energy we were giving to campaigning is now going into the transition and inauguration planning.
Q: Where will the inauguration be, by the way?
A: That’s a very good question that I don’t know the answer to yet, but I suspect will find out the answer today. Because it’s usually at the Civic Center.
A: It occurred to me as I was driving in that it won’t be at the Civic Center (its sale was announced a few weeks ago). So I’ll ask that question today.
Q: Seems like that’s something you’d want to know.
A: I think it will be very important. But I was so focused on getting past Tuesday that I hadn’t given any thought to anything past Tuesday. So now it’s time to think about the future and transitioning our government.
Q: Mary Norwood is challenging the vote and demanding a recount. What’s your thought on that?
A: It was a close election. But I think at this point it’s very clear the vote difference won’t change. I hope she will concede soon. We are still moving ahead with the transition. But this whole notion of voter fraud and impropriety is really ridiculous. It’s especially interesting since she asked to be the Republican appointee – or the appointee from the Republican party to the election board, so that she could go and clean up the election board. So to now claim that there was voter fraud or impropriety is really interesting. And she had poll watchers at every single precinct. So I’m not sure – she is the only one saying there were issues with the election. But I thought that’s why she went over to the election board, to clean it up.
Q: Are you disappointed you haven’t heard from her and that she hasn’t conceded?
A: No, no. I mean if the vote tally was as close as it is and if it were the other way around, I would want to make sure everything is in order. But I think that’s been affirmed and reaffirmed. And so I think it’s just time for us to move on.
Q: How much of your transition will be personnel decisions?
A: Oh, that will have a lot to do with it. because I need to get an assessment on various department heads and who’s interested in staying, and who has already made their intentions to leave known. And I’ll have a better idea by the end of the day where we stand with our various departments.
Q: Are you hoping to retain (Atlanta Police) Chief (Erica) Shields?
A: Yes I am.
Q: Have you chatted with her about that?
A: We’ve talked informally about it. I’m a fan of Chief Shields. I think she’s done a great job and I made that known throughout the campaign. So I would be happy for her to stay on as chief.
Q: And I wanted to ask about the airport director… Roosevelt Council Jr.
A: So with all the department heads, including Chief Shields, I’ll be taking a fresh look. There are some who I’ve worked more closely with (than) others, but I will be taking a fresh look at all of our departments. And like I said, getting a full assessment on who is even interested in staying, and making sure as we build out our transition team, make sure we are taking a fresh look at our department heads. And we’ll see where we go from there. But it will all happen very quickly.
Q: How much consultation would you expect to do with Mayor (Kasim) Reed?
A: Not very much. Not very much at all. The benefit of having worked on city council the past eight years – there are some people I’ve worked with more closely than others, just by virtue of my position on city council. So I won’t need as much input from the administration as maybe someone coming in from the outside.
Q: One of the most important relationships Mayor Reed had was with Gov. Deal at the state capitol. You obviously weren’t a member of the legislature like (Reed) was. How quickly do you plan to establish relationships at the Capitol?
A: I think it’s going to be very important to do that. And I’ve already started working on that. But I think looking at the relationship Mayor Reed has had with the state and how beneficial it’s been to the city, I think anything less than a functional – high functioning working relationship with the state really would be a failure. It’s been beneficial to the city, it’s been beneficial to the state. And I just want to make sure we continue to maximize that relationship.
Q: Do you expect to meet with those folks before you’re sworn in?
A: I don’t know yet. Hopefully, because we have a legislative session that begins very soon, so I anticipate that I will. But you know, right now we are just a couple of days removed from the election. And so all of these post election meetings are being scheduled as we speak. But I would hope so, given that we’ll be back in session in just a few weeks.
Q: Last question – what’s it been like the last couple of days, how this has been happening?
A: It has been really, at times, has felt like an out of body experience. I’ve had to pinch myself. So much focus was on getting to Tuesday, and winning. And it really has brought it home. I knew that people in Atlanta were paying attention in a major way (during the runoff) because you know for the vast majority of the campaign, people just weren’t paying attention. And to see the national response, how engaged people were nationally has really blown me away. I didn’t have an appreciation for that, partly because I was campaigning. And I’m not a really big social media person. But it has been unbelievable.
Q: One of the things that emerged on social media is that people are jacked up about the fact that there’s a mayor of Atlanta named Keisha
A: (Laughs.) I love it. isn’t that appropriate? That’s kind of cool. I think it’s really cool. I went to high school with several Keishas. I think I’ve made us all proud… ‘Hello my name is Keisha. I’m from Atlanta, it’s nice to meet ya.’ Is that the song I’m talking about? I saw it on social media recently.
Q: It’s a new-ish song?
A: No! It’s about 15, 20 years old. But it’s back – it’s back now.
Q: What was your jam when you were emerging as a fan of music?
A: I was always a Prince (fan). My sister’s a big Prince fan. And of course Michael Jackson, Jackson Five, Sade. That was my favorite. And New Edition… I remember I couldn’t listen to (Prince’s) music because he said bad words. She had her stereo system in her closet. And Dirty Mind came out and I would go sneak into her closet and listen.
Bottoms says she and her sister attended the Prince concert at the Fox Theater in April 2016, a few days before Prince’s death. Prince gave two performances that night. Bottoms was at the second show. It was his last concert.