Decatur Mayor Pro Tem Kecia Cunningham – one of Georgia's longest-serving openly LGBT elected officials – resigned on Monday, just a week before she moves to Pennsylvania for a “new professional and personal adventure.”
Cunningham made the announcement at the close of the Decatur City Commission's meeting on Monday in an emotional, four-minute speech. (Watch above)
“I was told when I left my office to cry pretty, so I am going to try hard to cry pretty,” Cunningham said. “It has been my distinct privilege and honor to serve the City of Decatur, its residents, its community leaders, its staff and my fellow electeds.”
The end of Cunningham's 16-year tenure on the City Commission was already in the works. She told the AJC earlier this month that she wasn't running for a fifth term. Cunningham has served on the commission longer than only one person – Mayor Jim Baskett.
Cunningham told fellow commissioners that she's accepted a job in Pennsylvania and will move quickly – the new gig starts on Monday. Her resignation was effective Aug. 17.
“They tell me it's cooler where I am going and I won't need air conditioning as much. But my heart will be here and so it is with profound mixed emotions that I announce that I am resigning my seat on the City of Decatur of Commission,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham, first elected in 1999, said her work on the commission over four terms was a highlight of her life.
“The 16 years that I have had the joy and honor to serve has to be the highest and best use of my life and I am ever so thankful and grateful for this opportunity,” she said.
Baskett said Cunningham's resignation is a loss to him and the city.
“I am going to miss you greatly both as a commissioner and as a friend. I can't wish you enough all the happiness in the world and I hope your adventure is just out of sight and great and I know it is going to be,” Baskett said.
Cunningham's resignation comes two months after she was arrested for driving drunk after enjoying cocktails and a cigar and driving barefoot through the city. Cunningham later told Decaturish she was “embarrassed” by the incident and took responsibility for her arrest.
Cunningham made history in 1999 when she was first elected to the Decatur City Commission. She identified as a lesbian and was the first-ever openly gay black elected official in Georgia. She often cruised to re-election – winning a fourth term in 2011 with 98 percent of the vote – and is the second longest-serving commissioner in the city.
In 2013, fellow commissioners named her mayor pro tem – the city's second-highest elected official – and she said she now identifies as bisexual.