In the lead-up to the Nov. 7 election of Atlanta’s next mayor, “Closer Look with Rose Scott” will feature 20-minute conversations with the candidates in the race. Scott interviewed former Executive Director of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, Michael Sterling, on Oct. 3.
On the heels of the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500, Atlanta mayoral candidate Michael Sterling said now is the time for change.
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“Local governments have frequently led the way on very serious national issues,” said Sterling, the former executive director of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.
“Local governments led the way on women’s suffrage, local governments led the way on child labor laws, local governments have often been the catalyst to inspire and bring about federal change. I think this may be another case of that.”
Sterling said change on the local level is vital not only to help people, but to maintain their trust in government and give them a sense of hope.
That sense of hope is what Sterling said he believes he brings to the crowded field of candidates.
“Right now the passion and the energy is in me like never before,” he said. “I often say, sort of jokingly, but really I mean it when I say I don’t want people politicking all of the hope out of me.”
Sterling, a former federal prosecutor, said the most important thing a mayor can do is earn the public’s trust.
He said earning the public’s trust starts with fixing corruption scandals, like those plaguing the current administration.
Sterling points to his time at the Workforce Development Agency as an example of his ability to squash corruption. He says when he arrived it was one of the most corrupt arms of the city, but he’s proud of his efforts to turn it around.
“I think that coupled with my experience as a former federal prosecutor, who actually held people accountable for breaking the public trust, gives me a unique experience in terms of tackling the corruption that we’re seeing now at city hall,” he said.
When it comes to affordable housing in the city — a hot-button issue in this year’s mayoral contest — Sterling said there’s no silver bullet solution.
“I think we have to do a number of things correct,” he said. “I think we have to look at mandatory inclusionary zoning, which is something that I support. I think we have to revisit the city’s definition of what actually constitutes affordable housing in the city of Atlanta.”
Sterling said the city has to be creative in its use of things like microhousing and container homes, as well as working hand in hand with entities that already exist, like the Atlanta Housing Authority.
Ultimately, Sterling said he’s running to be the “partner in chief” of Atlanta. Which he says means partnering with existing entities, including Atlanta Public Schools, and expanding partnerships further.
“I think I bring a certain uniqueness to solving these challenges and problems without carrying the baggage of having been a part of creating some of these issues,” he said.