City Council candidate looks to keep Midtown District 6 seat gay

By Regina Willis

A gay Atlanta real estate agent is campaigning for the Atlanta City Council, hoping to continue a 20-year tradition of an LGBT person filling the District 6 post.

Kirk Rich confirms that he’s a candidate for the seat, which is being vacated by City Council member Alex Wan, the panel’s first-ever openly gay man. The two-term incumbent is instead running for the citywide City Council president seat.

With a background in real estate, and work as a board member of Invest Atlanta, Rich says that his primary focus is smarter development for Atlanta.

“I’ve got the right skillset, and kind of a needed skillset that’s kind of been lacking on the council,” Rich says. “To help, to be a partner, and, again, really understand a lot of the development issues when it comes to real estate.”

District 6 includes portions of Midtown, Ansley Park, Morningside, Virginia-Highland and Cheshire Bridge Road, running north to the city’s borders with Brookhaven and Buckhead. Rich is one of two openly gay candidates running for the seat. Out gay teacher Lock Whiteside is the other gay candidate in the race.

District 2, currently represented by City Council member Kwanza Hall, now covers more of Midtown than District 6, but the latter has long been considered the LGBT seat on council, providing the panel with its only LGBT member for the last 20 years. Cathy Woolard, who is now running for Atlanta Mayor, became the state’s first openly LGBT elected official when she won the District 6 seat in 1997. Anne Fauver, a lesbian, won in 2001 and served two terms. Wan won in 2009 and nabbed a second term in 2013.

Rich operates Rich Real Estate Services in Duluth. He has been involved with Jerusalem House, and he serves on the Invest Atlanta board, which oversees the Beltline and other economic development projects in Atlanta.

“I am an incredibly skilled, strong candidate who happens to be gay, but I am happy to be gay,” Rich says.

A relative newcomer to politics, Rich says that the turnover at City Hall in elections this November – with many candidates leaving their seats to pursue higher office – creates an opportunity for new voices to step forward.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “New mayor, new council president, a lot of new council people. So there’s a lot of opportunity to really have a new imprint.”

In 2013, a plan to push adult businesses, and eventually some bars including gay clubs, pitted Wan against some LGBT people who opposed the effort. Since then, development projects have forced changes along the corridor.

Rich says that he sees the changes as somewhat of a natural evolution.

“There’s a point where you can’t justify a low density club of any kind on dirt that’s super expensive,” he says. “That’s why you’ve seen several [clubs] be shut down. But what they are putting back isn’t another building that’s the same size. It’s a huge, massive, multi-unit residential development or mixed use development.”