Institute of Politics

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Former Atlanta Mayor & City Councilwoman

  • Spring 2022 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: "What is the Role of Government?"


Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, and a visionary leader in bringing equitable outcomes to the forefront of government and commerce. Keisha became the first Mayor in Atlanta’s history to have served in all three branches of government, having previously served as a Judge and a City Council member. She has committed herself to realizing her vision of “One Atlanta” – an affordable, resilient, and equitable Atlanta.

Sworn in on January 2, 2018, Keisha has served as Mayor during one of the most challenging times in the history of Atlanta. In the midst of a global pandemic and a racial justice movement, Keisha became a leading spokesperson regarding the challenges and opportunities facing cities and leaders across America.

While navigating these unprecedented challenges, the Bottoms Administration was able to remain focused on the resilience of Atlanta, negotiating and closing the largest real estate transaction in the history of Atlanta, and one of the largest in the Southeast United States, delivering millions of dollars in community benefits to people across the city.

Bottoms took proactive measures to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City and its agencies. As a result, during one of the worst economic downturns the world has ever faced, the Bottoms Administration delivered four years of balanced budgets, without resorting to property tax increases, layoffs or furloughs of City employees. The City’s reserves remain at a near high of $181M, far exceeding the requirements of the City Charter.

Shaped by a childhood and professional career that highlighted the inequalities amongst Americans, Keisha led her Administration in undertaking several major initiatives that would seek to eradicate systemic issues facing Atlanta, while creating a model for all cities to follow.

Keisha’s steadfast leadership and equity-focused philosophy have led to numerous accolades and leadership positions, including having served as the Chair of theCommunity Development andHousing Committee and the Census Task Force for the United States Conference of Mayors and as a Trustee for the African American Mayor’s Association. She was also selected toChair the Platform Committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention and serves as the DNC’s Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Protection.

Tracing her family’s roots to a slave plantation in Georgia, it was Keisha’s highest honor to be named the2020 Georgian of theYear by Georgia Trend Magazine. She also was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of theYear and was named a member of Ebony Magazine’s prestigious Power 100 List. She has also been honored as a BET 100 Entertainer and Innovator of the Year and was named the Smart Cities Dive’s 2020 Leader of theYear. Keisha was also the recipient of the DistinguishedCivil Rights Advocate Award presented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law in recognition of her equity-driven leadership to help guide and protect marginalized communities.

Keisha is the daughter of R&B icon Major Lance and Sylvia Robinson. She and her husband, Derek, are parents to four children.


"What is the Role of Government?"

If 100 Americans were asked the very simple question, “What is the Role of Government?,” it is likely to garner at least 100 different answers. As mayor of a major city, I often found that the role of government was viewed differently based upon a number of factors, including race, income, education, and other demographic factors. If the goal of most leaders is, or at least should be, to empower communities, how is that achieved when you are facing historic inequities and representing an array of people, with differing needs, resources, and desired outcomes? This seminar will examine the historical and current racial and socioeconomic disparities that have prevented communities from thriving and examine ways in which communities can be empowered by elected leaders to succeed.

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