Mayor Kasim Reed Waxes Nostalgic, Looks Towards Future

Atlanta's mayor remembers Sunday afternoons with his dad at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, just one of the things he loves about the city.

Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed lent his support to R&B singer Usher at the singer's New Look Foundation World Leadership Conference & Awards gala in 2011.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is working tirelessly these days. On Monday, August 26, 2013, he announced his bid for reelection. Then on August 28, he appeared alongside President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The “Let Freedom Ring” event honored the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream” speech.

“Dr. King's primary legacy will be as the remover of burdens and the healer of scars," said Mayor Reed. "He gave an extraordinary gift to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or class, and that is what we are celebrating today. Dr. King is a hero for all seasons and for all people – and he happens to be from the city of Atlanta.”

Photo courtesy Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel Mayor Reed remembers going to the Sun Dial Restaurant high above Atlanta with his father. 

The City of Atlanta is often referred to as “the cradle of the civil rights movement.”

Mayor Reed spent his youth in the Cascade community of Atlanta where he attended Utoy Springs Elementary School and Westwood High School, which is now Westlake High School. After graduation young Reed attended Howard University in D.C. where he attended undergrad and law school, but returned after graduation, something he always knew he’d do. 

His Honor took time to tell FrontDoor the things he loves about our city and what’s in store for the future.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of going to a place in Atlanta as a kid?

A: One of my favorite memories of downtown Atlanta is going to the Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar and View on the 70th floor of the Westin Hotel, one of the tallest hotels in America, with my father as a boy on a Sunday afternoon. The Sun Dial was and still is one Atlanta's most beloved signature landmarks. 

The restaurant revolves and you have these spectacular 360-degree views of the city. So you can imagine, as a kid, how special it was to get dressed up and go downtown to a wonderful restaurant with my dad. He'd make me wear a suit and tie and order my meals and hold my knife and fork correctly and we'd talk about politics and current events and what was going in my life. 

I didn't know it at the time, but my dad was teaching me important lessons on how to be a man. Back then I was just happy to be a boy sharing a ‘grown up’ afternoon with his father.

Photo courtesy High Museum of Art Mayor Reed appreciates the architecture of Richard Meier, especially the High. 

Q: What are your favorite things about the city? 

A: I love architecture. My close friends know I can't travel to a new city without observing its buildings and taking mental notes about the structures and designs that move me.  I tend to like modern buildings that are sleek, functional and have strong lines and big, open spaces. I like marble and glass and also neoclassical designs. In Atlanta, my favorite buildings include the SunTrust Tower, the 191 Peachtree Tower and the High Museum of Art. My favorite U.S. city in the world for architecture  – besides Atlanta of course – is Chicago. Internationally, it's Paris.

Q: What is most exciting about Atlanta that is happening right now?

A: Everything in Atlanta is exciting right now. Seriously, we have so much going on. We just opened the new 200-foot SkyView Ferris Wheel in the heart of downtown's Centennial Olympic Park. The new National Center for Civil and Human Rights is opening in a few months. The Atlanta Falcons are building a new stadium, set to open in 2017. 

The Atlanta Streetcar, which will connect downtown with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the historic Sweet Auburn District, is under construction. 

We're opening new parks and trails on the Atlanta BeltLine, a 22-mile loop of green space, bike paths and eventually light rail that circles the core of the city. 

We have a gorgeous new International Terminal at the airport to welcome visitors. It feels like just about every day, a new restaurant, shop or boutique opens. New businesses are moving into downtown from the suburbs. I am always at a ribbon cutting. 

The city's television and film industry is booming; my administration just opened a new Office of Entertainment to facilitate productions. Atlanta is thriving, alive and full of energy.

Q: You left Atlanta to go to Howard University. What did you miss about home? Did you know that you’d come back?

A: I always knew I'd come back home. I decided that I wanted to be Mayor of the City of Atlanta when I was 13 years old. When I graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C., I had a choice. I could have gone to New York City to work for an international company that was run by one of my mentors or return to Atlanta to build a career as a young lawyer. 

Ambassador Andrew Young, the Civil Rights legend and another one of my mentors, told me that Atlanta would need a Mayor like me one day and that I should come home.  I will always remember that. So, it wasn't a hard decision for me in the end. I took his advice.  Atlanta is where my heart is. And now, I have the best job in the world as the Mayor of my hometown.

Q: What’s in store for the future?

A: We're going to keep pushing from better to best and from new to next. My vision is for Atlanta to be the center of commerce in the Southeastern United States and the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere by connecting our airport, which is the world’s busiest, to the Port of Savannah, the fastest growing port on the Eastern Seaboard.  I want to address the city's infrastructure challenges and revitalize in-town communities that have been hardest hit by the recent economic downturn. 

The Atlanta Falcons, our football team, are building a new stadium that has an incredible design and will not only become an iconic landmark for the city, but will also spur development in the neighborhoods around it. We're also going to be a greener, more efficient city. And we're going to continue to be a city that attracts all kinds of people, but especially young, talented folks who dream big and want to achieve big.

You can learn more about Mayor Reed and his vision for the future on his web site. 

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