Continuing her return to the political spotlight, former City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Mary Norwood is seeking to chair the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, an influential coalition of civic associations.
“Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods. So it is an honor to be asked to lead this neighborhood-focused council,” Norwood said in a press release. “For more than 20 years, I have devoted my professional life to uplifting and protecting our neighborhoods. This is an opportunity to unite our city, create greater communication, and ensure that residents have the information, protection, and advocacy they deserve.”
The BCN’s current vice chair, Jeff Clark, said in an interview that the executive committee collectively decided to nominate Norwood, though other nominees may come forward.
“To create some energy and invigorate that [organization] we reached out to Mary Norwood and she accepted,” Clark said. With Norwood as chair, Clark said, the committee members “hope the focus on the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods is less of an educational gathering and more of an activist lobbying institution that can help create change in the neighborhood… Hot topics for us are education and taxes.”
He added that “advocacy” might be a better term than “activist.” The idea, he said, is providing a collective opinion to city leaders in a proactive way, not just “at the 11th hour.”
The BCN will elect officers at its Jan. 10 meeting. Current chair Tom Tidwell previously said he is stepping down. Clark declined to say on the record whether there are any other known nominees for the chair position. None have publicly announced themselves. Anyone can be nominated at the Jan. 10 meeting, Clark said.
After her bitter, razor-thin loss to Keisha Lance Bottoms in last year’s mayoral race, Norwood’s first public speech was to the BCN, where she made political commentary about Buckhead not getting its fair share of city resources. The Bottoms administration later blasted those remarks as divisive.
Norwood spent months out of the spotlight, but recently returned to battle a townhome development, call for a new subway line, and to accept an attempted nomination to chair the Fulton County board of elections. She is now speaking in softer tones about Buckhead’s role in the city and often alluded to a citywide political view.
“This position is not just about Buckhead,” Norwood said in her BCN nomination press release. “I see it as an opportunity to work closely with all the neighborhoods throughout the entire city to elevate the quality of life for all residents and help make Atlanta the best city in America.”
Asked whether the executive committee had any concerns that the Bottoms administration might be less likely to engage with a group led by a former major political rival, Clark said, “I would hope that doesn’t happen. It might.” But, he added, they viewed Norwood’s mayoral close-call in a positive fashion, as it shows her citywide knowledge, connections and “passion for Atlanta.”
“She’s an advocate for communities, not just Buckhead… We think that’s a plus,” said Clark, describing Norwood as “someone who will integrate us with the city” and its overarching policies.
In Norwood’s press release, Clark added, “Mary will bring great passion and focus to the Buckhead Coalition of Neighborhoods. She is a tireless advocate with a track record of getting things done and bringing people together. No one in Atlanta knows the communities represented by the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods better than Mary. We are excited to recommend her for this position.”
Besides Norwood’s nomination, the executive committee is also recommending that other current officers remain, with two switching roles. Clark is proposed as treasurer; current treasurer Debra Wathen as vice chair; and Gordon Certain remaining as secretary.
Update: This story has been updated with comments from BCN vice chair Jeff Clark.