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Kasim Reed probably isn’t a name you know — yet.
The 42-year-old mayor of Atlanta has been pegged as a rising Democratic star and even wins plaudits from Republicans for his pro-business bona fides.
His early successes as mayor have landed him on “Meet the Press” twice this year and were the subject of a glowing Thomas Friedman column in the New York Times in December.
Reed’s national profile is set to grow in the coming months as the public face of Democrats in the Peach State — where all of the statewide officials are Republicans and where President Barack Obama’s campaign expects to compete in 2012.
It would have been nearly impossible to envision Reed in that position today when he took the oath of office in January 2010, after winning a runoff by only 715 votes.
The city faced a huge budget shortfall, recreation centers had been closed down, there weren’t enough police officers on the streets and Atlanta’s ballooning pension liability was consuming a fifth of the city’s budget each year.
But slowly, with help from people such as Peter Aman, a partner at Bain & Co. whom Reed hired as his chief operating officer, the mayor began to address the big problems facing his city.
He garnered one success after another, from reopening the shuttered recreation centers to balancing the budget to putting more police officers on the street to tackling pension reform.
A key to his success has been his devotion to consensus building. Though Reed is a lifelong Democrat, almost every top Republican in the state sings his praises.
“This is a guy who has taken on some very controversial issues like pension reform, reduction in terms of spending within the city’s budget. And he has done it because it is the right thing to do,” Lt. Gov Casey Cagle (R) told Roll Call. “What I’ve always admired about Kasim Reed is that he’s a person that genuinely puts what’s in the best interest of the city or the state ahead of politics. I think that’s really the defining attribute of a statesman.”
The mayor regularly exchanges text messages, sometimes jocular, with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff, according to one Atlanta-based GOP source. And Reed, a prolific texter, exchanged SMS messages with staff in the governor’s mansion as the mayor and governor worked to successfully close a deal to bring a Porsche plant to Atlanta.
Reed, a lawyer, spent 11 years in the state Legislature, serving in both chambers.
“What has helped Kasim with the Republican leadership at the state Capitol and in state government the most is that he basically comes from their circle,” said a well-connected Republican strategist in Georgia. “There is an expectation that Kasim is a guy with a very bright future. He’s very savvy politically.”