In its “5 Best Big –City Mayors” article, Time magazine listed the nation’s best and worst mayors.
Among them was Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, nicknamed the “Restorer of Faith.” She’s the first female mayor of Atlanta and the first black woman ever to run a big Southern city.
“It is tempting to judge our mayors for the little things that make city life livable, the depth of the potholes, the smell of the streets, whether or not the traffic lights are in synch. But the best mayors have also been those who act on a grand scale, building bridges, saving schools, finding the funds that cities forever lack”, said Nancy Gibbs, article writer.
The listing was made after consultations with urban experts and limited to cities with populations over half a million
Franklin took office in 1992, inheriting an Office that was filled with scandal, corruption, bribery, and a lot of debt from her predecessor, Bill Campbell. An $82 million budget deficit to be exact.
Among other problems were the city’s growing homeless population, run-downed streets, and sewage problems.
Franklin approached these problems head on. She was confident in her capabilities and turned Atlanta around.
She credits this confidence to her alma mata, Howard University.
“Howard gave me the confidence to do a lot of things in life. It is an institution where you are competing with the best and brightest”, said Franklin in the fall 2004 issue of the Howard Magazine.
In Franklin’s State of the City Address titled Moving Mountains for a Better Atlanta, she talked about her goal of “Atlanta giving light to the entire world”.
As the “Restorer of Faith” it is not strange that she would use a quote by St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. That is exactly what she did.
“The necessary we started during our first years together. Repairing potholes, removing metal street plates, and cleaning vacant lots, said Franklin.
Then, there was the possible.
“Balancing the budget and professionally managing city finances, reorganizing the government for greater efficiency, re-launching the airport expansion program, and increasing the number of police officers and firefighters”, said Franklin.
After doing the necessary and the possible, Franklin marvels at the city’s achievements.
“All that work, the necessary and the possible, leads to what some would say are the impossibles, the unlikely futures that are happening today”, she said.
Franklin marvels at Atlanta being on the brink of eliminating homelessness and the construction of thousand of housing units. In fact, a $5 million homeless shelter is scheduled to open this summer.
Many Howard University students from Atlanta believe that Franklin is very deserving of this honor.
“She’s played an important role in making Atlanta a true international city. She continues to make Atlanta a good place to live, raise your family, and start a business”, said Eric Hall, sophomore physical therapy major.
Megan Lyman, a marketing major from Atlanta agrees. “She’s a very spiritual person and cares so much about our community”.
Franklin also attributes faith and prayer as powerful instruments in her life.
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move”.