WATCH: Monica Pearson One on One with Mayor Andre Dickens
Atlanta’s 61st mayor talks family, politics and fatherhood
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Andre Dickens turns 48 on June 16, marking the first birthday and Father’s Day he’s celebrated since being elected Atlanta’s 61st mayor last year.
Last November, Dickens won a runoff against then-City Council President Felicia Moore, and was inaugurated earlier this year. But neither, he said, compares to the birth of his daughter, Bailey, on Jan. 11, 2005.
Watch part 1 of interview
“Fatherhood was the first big joy I had, like the first time I ever experienced this kind of supernatural joy when my daughter was born and I was looking at this creation,” Dickens told Peachtree TV’s Monica Pearson. “It was the first time I ever had this feeling. I couldn’t explain, but I knew what it there was internally. It was some other source.”
Dickens grew up in Southwest Atlanta, and attended Benjamin Elijah Mays High School. He then went to Georgia Tech, where he earned a chemical engineering degree, and then to Georgia State, earning a master’s of public administration in economic development.
When Bailey was about eight, Dickens ran for Atlanta City Council.
“She didn’t know what it was,” the mayor said. “She knew I was a neighborhood leader. She knew I was somebody in the community and I was just dad. But we were out there knocking on doors together.
“I have great pictures of her with a clipboard and just walking with me, knocking on doors and asking people for their votes. And she thought it was fun after a while. And you get about an hour in and you’re tired and hungry. So I had to always be dad at the same time, keeping snacks in my pocket.
“So I remember those days quite well.”
Bailey was a teenager when Dickens ran for mayor, moving her dad far deeper into the public eye and bringing an entirely different set of challenges.
“When I’m a city council member, she sees my signs in people’s yards and she’s riding the school bus and all the kids are like, that’s your daddy,” Dickens said. “Now, she’s driving and I’m a mayoral candidate and she’s driving herself to my events. She was there the entire time watching me sweat out through these debates and prepare staying up all night.
“So all her friends started to increase, and we had to have that conversation about being careful about adding new friends and being careful about what you say and what social media brings. That was a give-and-take and a lot of dialog about what this competitive campaign meant.
“But when I won, [there was] another set of conversations I had to take.”
Modern 21st century politics is dominated by social media, and Dickens makes sure he and his daughter are in constant communication.
“I’m going to be gone from six in the morning to nine or ten at night sometimes,” he said. “We got to stay in conversation via phone, via text. But also there’s going to be a lot of people offering you to come to things.
“And now you’ve got all these friends, [so] choose wisely [and] constantly be aware of your surroundings. What you say on social media is now is a screenshot, and is going to be used for the mayor’s daughter.”
Time is a precious commodity for the mayor and his daughter.
“I’m still attending all of her travel related to school, because it’s time to go to college,” he said. “The biggest thing is to be honest with each other. I’m having a lot on my shoulders as mayor right now, but you have a lot on your shoulders as an 11th grader taking tests and all these things.”
Dickens was mentored by former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, who once told Pearson she would never seek political office again because of the effect on her family. Atlanta’s newest mayor has been busy preparing his daughter for the hazards of public life.
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“I’m very careful with my daughter to communicate,” Dickens said. “People are all saying good things about your dad and saying good things about you, but be careful and aware of the gift giver. The bearer of good news also sometimes comes with ulterior motives. I tell her to make sure she stays who she ought to be, whether dad was an engineer or the mayor of Atlanta, and that shouldn’t affect how she sees the world and how she communicates with people.
“I only have one daughter, so I pour all my all and all into her and it’s reciprocal. So when I need something she’s there for me. And when she needs something, I’m there for her. When they call me from school saying she’s sick, I’ve left meetings, I’ve left towns, I’ve left anything that was of importance. We have a pact. We have an agreement. If she calls, no matter what, I’m going to pick up. I can be in an interview with Monica Pearson, I’m going to answer that call.”
Monica Pearson’s Fathers Day profiles
- Shelley “Butch” Anthony, This Is It! Southern Kitchen & BBQ restaurants
- Atlanta United’s Carlos Bocanegra
- Robert Stafford, dad of Lil Nas X
Monica Pearson: One on One is a new, interview-themed series featuring the legendary Atlanta journalist.
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