Steven Lee to the Rescue for Fulton County Commission District 4
“I’ve been in the community business, that’s what I’ve done for 20 plus years, that’s who I am.” – Steven Lee
By Maynard Eaton
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Fulton County District 4 Commission candidate Steven Lee was to Atlanta, what Houston Texans’ Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt was to his city following Hurricane Harvey – a hero!
Watt gained national acclaim for raising $37 million in relief funds for victims of Houston’s crippling storm, while Lee earned local notoriety and significant media coverage for coming to the rescue of elderly citizens trapped without electricity and food at Big Bethel Village Senior Housing. To them, much like with Watt, Lee was a Godsend.
“I got a phone call from some seniors at Big Bethel Village and they said they haven’t had power since Monday afternoon, so I got on the phone Tuesday morning to make sure they were okay,” says Lee, formerly a four- year member of the Atlanta School Board. “I knew Georgia Power wasn’t going out to do any repairs because the storm was just now going through so I went to check on them to make sure they going to be okay. When I got there, they still had no power and had not eaten since Monday at 2p.m. So, we immediately said first we need to get you all something to eat. They had breakfast and we was working on trying to get them some lunch and so what we did was a cook-out.
“Then it got to the point where it was really getting serious because now we have look at their getting ready to go through another night with no lights and no food,” Lee continues. “So, we made dinner preparations for them and I was actually on my way to go and pay for the dinner and this was literally out of my pocket. Caesar Mitchell’s mayoral campaign came up and asked if they could help pay for dinner.”
Later Lee solved the pressing problem of no electrical power, by bringing over an old RV that had been parked in his yard for the past two years. “I plugged everything up from the RV and we ran generators all night Tuesday so they can see. Then we served them dinner and got up Wednesday morning and served them McDonald’s biscuits. It was 48 hours of no electricity so we still had to make sure they were provided for and taken care of.”
Lee’s quick response to their dire circumstances was an instinctive reflection of his character and career. And, while it may not equal J.J. Watts fundraising feat, it proved to be a major and meaningful gesture of aid and comfort to the appreciative residents of Big Bethel Village –ironically the Atlanta senior citizens high rise cannot even vote for his Fulton County campaign.
Lee demurs when asked to assess the impact of his gallant gesture, but the bevy of free media coverage accruing from of his rescue efforts have reportedly helped buoy and bolster his campaign to replace the late Joan Garner in this Fulton County November 7th special election.
“I’ve gotten a lot of media attention, but honestly it’s who I am and what I do,” Lee proclaims. “So, it wasn’t ‘Let me go out and get a political sound bite,’ but it’s because of what I do. If people call me and say there is a need, I’m going to show up. That’s just been my thing since I’ve been Atlanta for 21 years. I got people calling me all over social media. I am honored and I’m grateful but it was done because it’s about our seniors and making sure they’re taken care of.”
Lee adds, “The four principles of my campaign are seniors, youth, community, and business. That’s my four pillars of public service. “There’s a big lesson that was instilled in me since childhood and that is you always take care of your elders,” Lee opines. “Putting all politics and ambitions aside, if elders are suffering you have to stop what you’re doing and take care of them. I spent the whole 48 hours making sure the seniors were taken care of and I didn’t really get an opportunity to do any of the other political stuff I was supposed to be doing. Politics aside, I didn’t want nobody to say, ‘We called Steven Lee but he was too busy campaigning to come see what was going on, so he went on dialing for dollars. I just hope voters don’t get it twisted thinking I did it for political gain.”
His opponents can only grimace in envy with the showering of good will and name recognition he has gotten because of his Hurricane Irma intervention. They include, Garner’s former chief of staff Natalie Hall, Reese McCranie, former communications director for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, former school board candidate Eddie Lee Brewster and realtor Kathryn Flowers Glasco, a realtor, and Joshua McNair, a health care sales executive. Lee is the only community activist and previously elected progressive official in this field of Fulton County commission candidates.
“Fulton County needs some fresh blood with proven leadership experience,” Lee says. “I think it needs someone that’s connected to the county, to the community, and somebody that can relate to the people. The voters need somebody that can get in and work across party lines, gender lines, race lines, and sexual orientation lines to get to what is the best for Fulton County. Fulton County is too important.”
“They’re new, they’re neophytes and I don’t believe any of them work as hard as Steven,” adds Michael Murphy, an astute and highly regarded political strategist. “He’s the new vanguard and when you can articulate four legs to a stool, you’re grounded. This is what’s been lacking out there in the political arena.”
For the past 15 years, Lee has been making a meaningful difference for seniors and troubled youth as the executive director of Unity Network and Counseling Center. His extensive network of established relationships with neighborhood leaders and federal, state and local government officials throughout the city and county fueled his election to the Atlanta School Board, and is the basis for his front-runner status in the Fulton County District 4 race.
“We deal with at risk youth, senior citizens, job development, and job training,” Lee proudly explains. “I’ve been in the community business, that’s what I’ve done for 20 plus years, that’s who I am. The last four years we’ve sent 273 kids to college.
“If you are born in poverty in Atlanta, you are less likely to move out of it,” Lee laments. “If you are born in poverty in Atlanta the opportunity for you to die in poverty is probably the highest ratio of any other city. We have a very big have and have not thing in Fulton County and we must fill that void. We have to stand in that gap. It’s my calling, it’s my ministry.”
Lee is a known, popular and trusted public servant; and not your typical politician supporters say. “I dare say that in the 21st century Steven is the type of representative that people want,” opines Murphy. “He is sensible and serious. He doesn’t lack an understanding of what’s needed and how to get the job done. It’s like difference you see between a thermostat or a thermometer. Anybody can look at thermometer and tell you what temperature it is but it takes a thermostat — a caring person like Steven who knows that it’s hot and can cool things down or it’s cold and warm things up.”