When we sat down with former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin in the conference room of her new office at Purpose Built Communities where she is now the CEO, she was clear she wanted her Moment to be “strategic.” It wasn’t until we were packed up and leaving a little later that we truly understood her meaning – giving us a sense that she’s been strategic since she was a young child in a Philadelphia dance class.
Even our suggestion that she begin her video moment with, ”Hi, I’m Shirley Franklin …” earned her scrutiny. “My mother would not be happy with me if I did that,” she said. “She would want me to say, ‘Hello.’ ‘Hi’ would be too informal for her.”
She chose to describe the moment when Tom Cousins and Greg Giornelli gave her a tour of the East Lake community and shared their vision to turn the crime-ridden community it was then into the national model of success as an urban investment turnaround that it is today. Then running her own consultant firm in 1997, she was hired by East Lake to strengthen ties with the local community.
That skill set had been sharpened during her five years working as senior vice president of external relations for the committee that brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996. She was instrumental in successfully steering Centennial Olympic Park over a series of negotiating hurdles to become the city’s centerpiece.
Shirley Franklin spent two years running for mayor, to which she was elected in 2001, serving two four-year terms for which she received countless accolades. Many presumed she would be headed to a national post in the Obama administration, but her interests are focused on the local level – albeit several localities across the U.S.
After a few months of teaching at Spelman College, Tom and Greg were able to convince Shirley to return to serve as CEO of their now national organization, supported not just by Cousins’ foundation, but also by two other philanthropists, Warren Buffett and Julian Robertson. Purpose Built Communities provides technical and management advice to redeveloping communities across the nation – for free.
After she recorded our video, telling us how her life has now come full circle, working again with the East Lake visionaries, she watched as we packed up our equipment and put away our laptops. It was only then, as we stood at the conference room door with all the recording equipment that Shirley told us she had “other” moments. We just knew she did.
She shared two of them. One, when she was a little girl learning to dance, she irritated the teacher when she didn’t know her right foot from her left. The teacher told her she’d have to absorb that concept immediately if she was to continue dancing. So she discovered how important it was to learn and integrate lessons quickly while, literally, on her feet.
The next moment she shared with us was spine-tingling – the exact kind of a moment we were hoping to record when we began this series for SaportaReport. But we didn’t get it on video and Shirley knew it. “You’ll have to come back for that one,” she said, smiling.
We promised we’d be back to record that story – and share with you Shirley’s incredible moment atop Mount Sinai at sunrise with hundreds of people from many other countries and faiths. Perhaps we’ll share it to kick off the holiday season in December. It just seems like the strategic thing to do.
Next week in Moments: former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell
Don’t miss previous Moments from Season Two: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman,Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews.
Don’t miss previous Moments from Season One: Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard.
Video by Reid Childers of Eyesome Productions.