Jan 4, 2022 - Politics

Dickens calls for unity and action during inauguration speech

Andre Dickens points to the audience during his inauguration speech at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd football stadium.

Mayor Andre Dickens wants to reduce crime, build affordable housing and end inequality in Atlanta. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Atlantans and elected officials old and new gathered on a brisk and windy Monday to watch Keisha Lance Bottoms hand the keys to the mayor’s office to Andre Dickens, the city’s 61st chief executive.

The takeaway: Before Atlanta can make any traction on addressing systemic problems like inequality, poverty, homelessness and public safety — not to mention thwarting a secession movement by its wealthiest neighborhoods — the city needs unity and bold action.

  • That call to action was touched upon again and again during prayers from faith leaders, speeches from former mayors and Dickens himself.

Most inspiring line: “We have survived hard times before. We’ve survived crime waves before, we survived the Missing and Murdered Children when I was growing up. We survived Lester Maddox and his axe handle. We survived the Olympic Park bombing, and we will survive the COVID-19 pandemic. And as great as our past has been, our future will be even greater.”

First up: Dickens, who called becoming a mayor a childhood dream of his, plans to start several programs, including his crime reduction plan, which includes hiring 250 police officers, investments in conflict resolution and community policing, and hiring specialists to address mental health crises to free up officers.

  • Dickens will launch a citywide cleanup blitz to reduce trash and litter before the end of the month. He also wants to install 10,000 street lights that will light up Atlanta "like a Christmas tree from the airport to Phipps Plaza.”

Long-term, the mayor wants to build 20,000 affordable housing units in the next eight years, and to create a new city department of labor to work with private businesses, unions, workforce training programs, and Invest Atlanta.

  • And yes, transit enthusiasts, he says Atlanta will continue pushing for rail on the Atlanta BeltLine.

Buckhead reference: Speaking on the biblical story of Nehemiah, where the people of Jerusalem came together to rebuild the walls and gates, Dickens said the residents “chose to work together to accomplish a difficult task. They chose to unify and not to divide. And we need to choose to do the same. We don’t need separate cities. We must be one city with one bright future."

Funniest line: “Which one of you city council members will introduce an ordinance today to say no one should ever call us Hotlanta again?” Dickens asked the newly sworn-in members of the Council.

Trivia: During his days at Georgia Tech, Dickens and his fellow members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. worked as ushers at Bobby Dodd Stadium to earn extra money. “Today, I stand before you to usher in a new day for the city of Atlanta,” he said from the lectern.

VIPS: Former mayors Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed and Bottoms were in attendance along with Democratic Congress members Nikema Williams and Lucy McBath and Sen. Raphael Warnock.

What’s next: Dickens must decide which cabinet members to keep and which to let go — and prepare for next week’s legislative session at the Georgia Capitol, where he’ll work to convince state lawmakers to block Buckhead cityhood and efforts to take over Atlanta’s airport.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more