3 gay Atlantans picked to help Reed transition

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Mayor Kasim Reed this week tapped three high-profile LGBT Atlanta residents and several gay-friendly people to help his transition team and aid his search for the city’s next top cop and fire chief.

Political consultant Beth Schapiro, business owner Philip Rafshoon and anti-crime activist and former mayoral candidate Kyle Keyser were the three openly gay people among the dozens of names announced Monday for Reed’s 18-member transition committee and search committees for police chief and fire chief.

“It is vital that all of Atlanta be represented, as we build our city teams and find the right departmental leaders,” Reed said during a City Hall press conference. “I chose transition team members who I trust will have the best interest of Atlanta as a central guiding principle when they make recommendations to me.”

Reed’s transition team is led by Lisa Borders (top photo), the former mayoral candidate who established a gay-friendly track record as City Council president, and attorney Lawrence Ashe, the husband of state Rep. Kathy Ashe, herself a progressive lawmaker who supports LGBT issues.

imageSchapiro (middle photo) will serve on Reed’s transition team, along with state Sen. Nan Orrock, another state lawmaker who supports LGBT issues in the Gold Dome. The group will advise Reed on key hires for his administration and vet the field of candidates from the search committees for police and fire chiefs.

“The LGBT community is a significant part of the city,” Schapiro says. “I look at myself as wearing a number of hats. Certainly, the LGBT one is an obvious one, but I have a pretty broad civic resume. I’m certainly honored and flattered if LGBT is one because it is important that we be at the table.”

Keyser (bottom photo), who founded Atlantans Together Against Crime before his run for mayor last year, will serve on the search committee for police chief, along with Rafshoon, who owns Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse. Former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood and former state Sen. Jim Martin – both of whom support LGBT issues – are among the members of the search committee for fire chief. Also on the fire chief panel is Bahareh Azizi, who ran unsuccessfully last year for the heavily gay District 6 post on Atlanta City Council.

image“I want an open dialogue with all of the members of the community and the people who helped me build ATAC and to make sure they all have a chance for input,” Keyser says. “I encourage people to be part of the dialogue.”

Keyser started seeking input on the police chief search last week with a post on ATAC’s website and Facebook page.

So I ask… what do you want in the next Chief of Police? What qualities should she or he have? What sort of experience should they ideally have? What would you want the APD to look like in 3-5 years? Or, do you believe there’s a qualified candidate within the APD ranks who everyone should consider? I invite everyone to begin a discussion below.

In the meantime, I will listen, participate, and compile your thoughts to help guide me through the selection process. I will also keep you posted on our progress. It is only the candidate names who I can not reveal – a measure taken to protect them, in light of national candidates whose employers may or may not know they’ve put themselves on the market.

The Atlanta Police Department has come under fire from some LGBT residents after its Sept. 10 raid of the Eagle in which patrons were detained and eight men were arrested.

The raid ignited a firestorm of controversy over police tactics and prompted several elected officials and political candidates, including Keyser, to call for an investigation. It resulted in a public forum with top commanders of the police department, who defended the raid, and three protests. The action also prompted a federal lawsuit, which was filed in late November.

“The search for the police chief is of particular interest to our community right now,” Rafshoon says. “I’m glad that we have a seat at the table. I am glad that Mayor Reed has shown that he is going to appoint people with experience in our community, that are part of our community and other communities that are out there.”

On his second day in office, Reed pledged to take “appropriate action” if an ongoing investigation and lawsuit shows that the police department acted inappropriately during the raid. His comments came during a press conference with Interim Police Chief George Turner, who is reportedly a candidate to become the department’s permanent chief.

The search committees are expected to provide a list of up to five candidates to the transition team by late April so Reed can announce his picks in early May, Borders said.

“We have been very, very careful and very judicious about who we invited so that we would cover the entire city. The business community is represented, the civic community is represented, the LGBT community is represented, seniors and the faith-based community. We were very careful and thoughtful about who would participate,” Borders said.

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