WASHINGTON — President Biden plans to appoint Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta, to his White House staff as a senior adviser charged with managing relations with pivotal constituent groups heading into the midterm campaigns, a White House official said on Tuesday.
Ms. Bottoms will succeed Cedric Richmond as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and serve as the president’s ambassador to community and business organizations at a time when Mr. Biden is struggling with low approval ratings and his party faces the loss of one or both houses of Congress in the fall elections.
Ms. Bottoms served one term as mayor of Atlanta and drew national attention for her handling of protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020, which at times turned violent. She was an early supporter of Mr. Biden in the 2020 primaries for the Democratic nomination, and he briefly considered her as a possible vice-presidential running mate. She later turned down a cabinet-level position in the administration.
Her appointment to the White House staff was reported earlier Tuesday night by Axios, which quoted her saying she planned to do “more listening than anything” and that “it’s important that people feel their voices are reflected and their voices are heard.”
Mr. Richmond, a former member of Congress from Louisiana, left the White House recently to enter the private sector and take a post as senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee. The tensions between the party’s activist progressive wing and its leadership proved a challenge during his time in the White House.
The latest moves were part of a series of personnel shifts midway through Mr. Biden’s second year in office. In addition to Mr. Richmond, the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, and Covid czar, Jeffrey D. Zients, have left recently, as have several aides to Vice President Kamala Harris. Many Democrats speculate that there will be further changes, especially if the midterm elections go badly as they expect.
Ms. Bottoms served as a judge and city councilwoman before being elected mayor in 2017 but chose not to run for a second term last year amid rising crime in Atlanta. Homicides there rose 58 percent in 2020, and challengers accused her of not focusing enough on reducing crime.
She gained national prominence when she spoke directly to protesters after the Floyd killing, expressing what she said was her own deep pain over his murder beneath the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer while scolding demonstrators who resorted to violence and telling them to “go home.”
Mr. Biden praised her approach. “We saw her stand tall and speak out during the summer of protests and pain,” he said of her at a fund-raiser last year.
In her interview with Axios, Ms. Bottoms said she felt strongly about the issues of social justice raised by the Floyd case.
“Those challenges are still very fresh and real to me,” she said. “And I live it every day: I live it as a Black woman, I live it as a mother of four children, and I know where those challenges are, but I also know where the opportunities are.”