ATLANTA - Atlanta voters decided Tuesday that Andre Dickens would become the city’s next leader.
"I am humbled that you have put this faith in me to be the city's next leader," Dickens said speaking to supporters at his watch party late Tuesday evening.
The 47-year-old Dickens painted an optimistic and enthusiastic future for the city of Atlanta in his acceptance speech.
"Like they say, ‘Atlanta influences everything,’ and it’s time we use that influence to make some real change," Dickens said. "Atlanta needs to show the world that we are leading, that we are leading on public safety, on criminal justice reform, that we are leading on affordable housing and eliminating the inequality that we have."
Dickens, a City Council member, defeated City Council President Felicia Moore in the mayoral runoff, an upset as Moore had been the frontrunner after earning 41% of the vote in the first round of voting on Nov. 2 across a nonpartisan field of 14 candidates.
"Some people counted me out, some said I was dreaming way too big. We scrapped, we scraped, we fought to get our message out to the entire city of Atlanta," Dickens said.
That snowballing support continued in the runoff, with endorsements by Bottoms, U.S. Rep. and Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema Williams, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Sharon Gay, an attorney who finished fourth in Nov. 2 voting.
"I draw circles, I don’t draw lines," Dickens said. "And the circle tonight got real large."
"There’s no division tonight," Moore told supporters during her concession speech Tuesday night.
Moore, 60, urged her supporters to do anything and everything they can to make Dickens' term successful saying there’s no difference between her supporters and Dickens’ because "we’re all camp Atlanta."
"We have to be called to do the thing that we wanted everyone else to do, and that brings this city together," Moore said, specifically calling on Buckhead residents to work with Dickens and spurn secession and for Dickens to make sure he gives access to all groups.
"We have some very serious challenged to face in this city," Moore said.
Some of Moore’s critics attacked her as the favorite of white voters, a frequent tactic in a city where many white and Black voters are divided by income and geography. Both Moore and Dickens are Black. Moore dismissed the notion that her support should be held against her.
Moore touted her record to appeal to voters hungry for change and position herself as someone who would bring accountability and transparency to City Hall. But Dickens portrayed Moore as a naysayer and someone who has been unable to work with others.
Like many cities across the country, Atlanta has been dealing with a spike in killings. As of Nov. 7, homicides rose 10% over the same period last year and 59% compared with 2019, Atlanta police data shows. Several of those killings captured widespread attention.
Dickens has focused his campaign on getting more officers onto the street quickly, stating he may keep current Chief of Police Rodney Bryant in his position.
Dickens has said he’s willing to let Fulton County temporarily use a mostly empty city jail to relieve overcrowding.
Dickens voted for a failed measure that would have withheld a third of the police department’s budget until the mayor came up with a plan to overhaul the police department.
"I’m thankful for my supporters, volunteers, and voters," Dickens said. "Atlanta voted for progress, transformation, a problem solver, and it starts right now. We can’t wait any longer to address these issues."
Transportation has been another concern, with Dickens highlighting a need for "smooth and clear roads" and sidewalks.
Dickens also aims to increase affordable housing, improve infrastructure and ensure current residents qualify for high-paying jobs.
"They say 'Atlanta's full.' There's even shirts out there saying 'We full,'" Dickens told his supporters. "They're saying 'Atlanta's full,' I'm saying 'Atlanta full of potential,' I say, 'We're full of talent,' I say, 'We're full of opportunity, we're full of leaders, we're full of potential, we are full of hope for Atlanta's future.'"
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced in May that she wouldn’t seek a second term, creating a wide-open race to succeed her. That successor could have been two-term former Mayor Kasim Reed, but he finished third narrowly behind Dickens after being dogged by corruption in his previous administration, although Reed said he himself was clean.
In an early-morning tweet, the current mayor congratulated Dickens writing:
"Congratulations to Atlanta Mayor-Elect Andre Dickens. The future of our city is in good hands."
Governor Brian Kemp also was quick to congratulate Dickens taking to Twitter to express looking forward to working with the mayor-elect writing:
"Congratulations to Mayor-elect @andreforatlanta. I look forward to working with him to combat crime, spur economic development, and ensure a brighter future for our capital city and state."
Dickens currently works for TechBridge, a nonprofit that tries to use technology to aid other charitable groups. Dickens also founded a program to train people for technology work, trying to broaden access to high-paying jobs in Atlanta. He earlier ran a family-owned furniture store chain that collapsed in bankruptcy a decade ago, something that Dickens blamed on the effects of the Great Recession.
He also thanked his friends, family, and his mentor former Mayor Shirley Franklin, who he credits with getting him into politics during his speech.
Moore said after her term as Atlanta City Council president is over, she plans to take a vacation and then will make herself available to help the city move forward.
The Associated Press contributed to this report