Dickens said “It feels good,” to be hosting 14 other mayors this week. “Atlanta is a hospitality city,” he said. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

Within the next few years the city of Atlanta will play host to events and people from all over the country and the world. From the World Cup in 2026 to college football’s penultimate game to cutting the ribbon on the headquarters of United States Soccer. This week it was the United States Conference of Mayors, a Washington, D.C.-based organization consisting of mayors from cities of 30,000 people or larger, that was in town.

Women and men dressed in pants suits, blouses and skirts and suits filed into the Wisteria Room on the second floor of the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead just before noon Monday, Oct. 3. Mayors of cities, both big and small, were in Atlanta for the first time. Atlanta’s mayor eventually joined them at the front of the room and made his way to a podium. 

“I’m glad to host these mayors and industry leaders,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said. “We talked about how good mayors share and borrow good ideas, and how great mayors steal good ideas,” he joked. 

In much friendlier surroundings with the focus on a much friendlier subject than the recent “Cop City press conferences that have taken place in and around Atlanta City Hall, Dickens was there to help kick off the organization’s inaugural Public-Private Partnership Council meeting. Alongside him representing the state of Georgia was Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst, Chamblee Mayor Brian Mock, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and Union City Mayor Vince Williams. Of the 1,400 mayors in the organization, 12 other mayors attended the two-day conference including, Columbus (OH) Mayor Andrew Ginther, Newport News (VA) Mayor Phillip Jones, Newport (RI) Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong, Riverside (CA) Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson, Jackson (MS) Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Montgomery (AL) Mayor Steven Reed, Columbia (SC) Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, Rialto (CA) Mayor Deborah Robertson, Arlington (TX) Mayor Jim Ross, Lansing (MI) Mayor Andy Schor, Providence (RI) Mayor Brett P. Smiley,  Birmingham (AL) Mayor Randall Woodfin, and Tempe (AZ) Mayor Corey Woods.

Asked how it feels to have so many mayors from as far away as Arizona, California and Texas, for example, in Atlanta, Dickens said, “It feels good. These are my friends, colleagues and co-laborers across the United States. Atlanta is a hospitality city and we’re open to making sure we show people a great time.”

The Public-Private Partnership (P3) Council took place in Buckhead, an area of the city that was anything but bipartisan less than a year ago. Dickens helped bridge that gap between the city and its ritziest zip code and now as chair of the P3 task force he was back to continue making partnerships. A major part of Dickens’ initial campaign and his mayorship has been his need for public-private partnerships for the betterment of the city. Mayors and business leaders from all over the country will hold closed sessions over the next two days on how to best continue building those bridges. 

There will also be dinners and receptions before concluding the meetings Wednesday afternoon. 

“This won’t just be in Atlanta, this is the first, maybe six months from, maybe 12 months from now we will be in one of these other cities where we’ll all get a chance to experience the wonderful things they are doing in their cities,” Dickens said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is also in town for the council meetings. With just under 200,000 residents, Birmingham, which recently hosted the national Association of Black Journalists convention in August, is one of the southern cities looking to learn more about building partnerships with local businesses,” said Woodfin. 

“The best ways for cities to generate more funding is through public and private partnerships,” he said. “Having the private sector at the table is always good for cities.”

“We are really focussing on solutions that matter to every American that is living, working and playing in a city,” said Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners policy and strategic partnership rep David Gilford. “I am optimistic about hearing the new ideas to solve challenges that range from housing affordability to dealing with the constraints of legacy infrastructure.”

Gilford, a New York City resident, mentioned the recent flooding that took place throughout the city last week. That was just a few weeks after the Atlanta University Center experienced flooding that damaged dozens of cars and private property. 

Robertson, the mayor of Rialto, California (population 104,394), made sure to tell Dickens how big Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is. The mayor told the story just before the press conference ended. 

“That was a lot of steps,” said Robertson with a smile. 

The organization holds two meetings per year, with one in the summer and the other in January, according to its website. Future meetings are scheduled for Minneapolis, Boston and D.C. this month and Tampa, Los Angeles in November. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...