Reed, who is African-American and goes by his middle name — his first name is Mohammed — grew up in the Cascade neighborhood of Atlanta. When he was 16, he founded a venture capital group that included a jewelry business.
“I realized that my generation’s burden was to further break the economic barrier,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when he was 21. As an undergraduate at Howard University, he served as the student representative on the Board of Trustees and proposed a successful initiative to get each student to contribute to the school’s endowment. With a matching grant from the government, it added millions to Howard’s coffers. He later returned to Howard, where he received a law degree in 1995.
The mayor, who speaks with a slight Georgia twang, said his only political goal is winning a second term in 2013. But for an executive with a substantial national profile and bipartisan support, watchers of politics in Georgia can’t help but think that Reed is a man moving up in the political world.
Asked about his political future in an interview after his second appearance on “Meet the Press,” Reed said simply: “I want to serve two terms as mayor.”
He added, “I think you lose your job thinking about the next job.”
Reed was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s 2008 campaign, and he remains a cheerleader for the president. He thinks that with the right resources, the president could win his state in 2012 and “that Georgia is looking more favorable than Virginia” for an Obama victory.
Republicans in the Peach State seem to appreciate the mayor’s connection to Washington, seeing him as a key link to the White House. They also recognize and value his willingness to pull for issues that affect the whole state, not just Atlanta.
“He has taken the first step to show that the interests of the city and the interests of the state are not mutually exclusive,” said Chip Lake, a GOP consultant in the state, who until recently served as Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s (R) chief of staff. Lake gave the example of Reed joining forces with Republicans to promote federal funding for the effort to deepen the port at Savannah, a potential boon to the state’s economy.
Despite praise from Republicans, Reed admits that his reforms have not endeared him to everyone in Atlanta.
“I’m certainly paying my share of political price trying to solve our citizens’ pension challenge, our city’s budgetary challenges,” he said.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D), who represents Atlanta and supported Reed in his campaign, said he was “disappointed” with the mayor’s tenure and called him a “captive of the business community.”
One of Reed’s marquee achievements in his year and a half in office has been reforming the city’s unsustainable pension system.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.