Seminar VIII: Conversations with Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor Shirley Franklin: First African American Female Mayor of Atlanta

Last Friday, April 19, we were truly honored to have Shirley Franklin speak to our organization. As a former two-term Mayor of Atlanta and leader of a renowned clean water project in Atlanta, she definitely knows the definition of public service.
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Why work in the public service field? Shirley says if you care about your water, air, police force, education system, etc., you can not count on someone else to represent your point of view. Working in public service allows to do this, and to help others in a huge way. Of course, working in public service will put you under extreme scrutiny. She gave the example of the recent tragedies in Boston, MA and West, TX – people will be questioning different figures in public service positions as to why measures were not in place to prevent these type of things. You have to be prepared to answer every type of question when you serve in a position like she did, even down to your choice in hair color- she was criticized for having platinum blonde hair!

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Shirley mentioned one of the things she believes to be the hardest when serving in a public position is gaining and maintaining public trust. Her suggestion to us was to always be honest, transparent, and accountable in everything we do, and to not be afraid to admit our mistakes.

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She also presented to us the idea that you don’t always need to do things the usual way because its the easy route. She told us of how she drastically improved Atlanta’s water system while making huge budget cuts and increasing taxes- and then proceeded to get reelected!

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I know she was inspiring to all that attended the seminar, and I heard many people afterwards talking about how it caused them to think about a career in public service.

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Thank you Shirley Franklin for all that you’ve done and for spending time with our Scholars!

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About Our Speaker:

Former two-term Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin joined the LBJ School of Public Affairs as the Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor of Ethics and Political Values in 2013.

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Franklin served as Mayor of the City of Atlanta from 2002 to 2010. She was the first female to hold the post and became the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of any major Southern city.

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Her public service career began in 1978 when she served as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. She was later appointed as the nation’s first woman Chief Administrative Officer or City Manager. She was also charged with guiding the development of Hartsfield International Airport, a new city hall, a new municipal court building and 14,000 net housing units.

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In 1991, Franklin joined the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as the top ranking female executive, serving as senior vice-president for external relations.

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Franklin was named Governing magazine’s 2004 Public Official of the Year. She was also president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and was selected by Time magazine as one of the five best big-city mayors in 2005. U.S. News and World Report named her one of “America’s Best Leaders”. Esquire Magazine named her one of the best and brightest and American City and County Magazine named her Municipal Leader of the Year. In 2005, Franklin received the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In 2006, she was honored with the Southern Institute for Business and Professional Ethics’ Ethics Advocate Award. And in 2007, Newsweek Magazine named her one of the women to watch in their Women & Power issue.

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Again, she recently joined us in Texas and currently serves as a visiting professor here at the LBJ School of Public Affairs as the college’s first Barbara Jordan visiting professor in Ethics and Political Values.

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Shirley Franklin speaks to UT Service Scholars Shirley Franklin speaks to UT Service Scholars

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