By Laura Lanford
Elected officials from across the country convened in Savannah, Georgia last month for a series of skill-building sessions aimed to strengthen and enhance their interpersonal skills and their work as city leaders. The meeting was NLC's 21st Annual Leadership Summit -- developed two decades ago as an interactive retreat designed specifically with local government officials in mind. This year's summit centered around focusing on strengths and finding common ground within personal, council and state-wide relationships.
Clarence Anthony, Executive Director of the National League of Cities, welcomed the attendees and discussed the debut of the new education and training model, NLC University, which will be unveiled at the 2013 Congress of Cities in Seattle, Washington this November.
The Summit featured presentations by Lindsay Strand, of Lindsay Strand Associates, Kathie Novak, former NLC President and instructor at the University of Denver, and Michael Brown, former city manager for the City of Savannah. Fatima Shama and Daniel Wallace of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York City spoke to the group on finding common ground within diverse communities.
Edna Branch Jackson, Mayor of Savannah, collaborated with her hometown and NLC to bring summit attendees an unforgettable taste of the “Hostess City of the South.” A highlight of the program was a bus tour of the sustainable housing initiatives around Savannah. Participants also had the opportunity to discuss issues of particular importance to host city Savannah.
The opening night reception was held at the Savannah City Hall, where Mayor Jackson brought greetings to the Summit participants in the Council Chambers. After the reception concluded, participants were transported to the Savannah Jazz Festival for Blues Night, where they networked and socialized while learning more about Savannah's cultural attractions.
Summit participants walked away with useful tools and experiences to better serve their home communities. Kathy Hofmann, Councilmember from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, said, "I truly enjoyed the Savannah conference. I learned many lessons with the other people attending, but mostly from the city itself. I have been meeting with our chamber leaders and city manager, and the Housing Authority Commission to discuss the many things I learned from this conference.”