This is the first in an occasional series of articles on the 2009 candidates for mayor of Atlanta.
By John Schaffner
Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood wants everyone to know she is a candidate for the 2009 election to become the city’s next mayor and believes she “can win … can right the city and … can move Atlanta to the next level of greatness.”
The Post 2 at-large councilwoman has addressed neighborhood groups large and small in every corner of the city since early this year, talking about the issues and asking for votes. She doesn’t think her stumping for votes is too early.
Speaking recently to a small group of homeowners at the Gallery high-rise condominium in Buckhead, Norwood responded to a question by suggesting Atlanta might be better run if the government were changed from its present strong mayor/City Council form to a City Council/city manager form. But she acknowledged that change would have to come through the state legislature.
“What I think is really challenging is that we have time limits (eight years for a mayor), and we have a very complex major U.S. city. So there are a lot of responsibilities,” she said. “What I would like to do is show people what having a city manager form of government feels like. I would like to get in a professional manager to run the city and function as a city manager would, where the council would access to his judgments and show people what it feels like. I think it is absolutely very important that the city be professionally run.”
She added that “no matter how good the mayor is,” that person cannot deal with running the city day to day. “Our city could be well served with a professional manager.”
Asked if she thought the City Council should have fewer members, Norwood said, “I don’t have an opinion if it would run better if it were nine or 12 members vs. 15, but I will say you really do want to have at-large people. The reason is because you have a mayor with all of the control in the world” and district council members who primarily are focused on their districts. The at-large council members have the responsibility to focus on the whole city.
But she said, “If I am running for mayor and there are 15 council members out there running for their offices, I don’t think I want to be out there saying smaller would be better.”
Norwood lives in Buckhead, but she makes it clear that she is involved with issues and organizations throughout the city — west side, southwest, southeast, east side and, yes, north side, which includes Buckhead.
Lest anyone think Norwood is not serious about the mayor’s race, which could end up with 10 candidates, her campaign headquarters phone number is 404-Mayor09, her Web site is MaryNorwoodMayor.com, and she freely gives out her home phone number and urges people to call her.
But the election is not until next November, and the qualifying date is in September, so she has a long way to go before she even knows how many opponents she will face.
While she is asking for votes now, she is even more interested in the input from Atlanta residents about the issues they consider most important. Regardless of the size of the group she addresses, she always stays at least an hour before moving on to a city meeting or community forum or possibly one or two more neighborhood get-togethers that day or night.
Norwood has a slogan: “Accountability you can count on.”
In her brief presentation before taking questions, Norwood tells her audience, “You can tell a lot about the kind of mayor I will be by the way I ask for your vote — hearing from you directly, face to face, with no in-betweens, is on the top of my to-do list because no one knows your neighborhood better than you.”
What Norwood tells her audiences is that they can count on her to “work for your neighborhood and every neighborhood, fight crime and drugs, work for young and old alike, bring all Atlantans into the discussion, protect our green spaces, improve the city services you pay for with your taxes, and balance the city’s financial books, openly and accurately.”
Norwood, a petite bundle of energy and optimism about the city, tells audiences, “We have a great city that embraces everyone, and we have a tremendous opportunity to take the city to the next level, and that is what I want to do as your mayor.”