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Best Reason to Believe in Atlanta: Shirley Franklin

Staff Pick

SHIRLEY FRANKLIN was elected mayor in 2001. The city was in shambles. She faced a budget crisis and — even more — City Hall faced a crisis of confidence. Her predecessor, Bill Campbell, had mired the government in a series of scandals. Campbell (see “Best Morality Tale”) also pandered to racial division. A second bad mayor in a row would have been disastrous. “Shirley,” as nearly everyone calls her, has healed the wounds. She stabilized city finances, trimmed (some) overstaffing, hired a competent police chief, and led the way to fix the city’s ancient sewer system. In her second term, as Campbell prepared for his trial on influence peddling and tax evasion charges, Shirley managed something nobody could have imagined during the Campbell years: With the help of many others, she united the city behind one of the most dramatic civic improvement projects any American city has attempted in decades. Just ask yourself, would the Beltline ever have gotten as far as it has without Shirley?

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