At the National League of Cities (NLC) 99th annual City Summit, more than 4,000 municipal leaders, staff and advocates gathered in Atlanta to learn, listen and network. From the General Sessions to workshops, the message was clear: Local leaders are on the frontlines and instrumental in shaping their communities.
In his welcome message, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens pointed out that City Summit was the ideal opportunity for municipal leaders to learn from one another and return to their respective communities with valuable information and ideas they could put into practice.
“Local leaders are on the front lines in these issues facing our residents, and we know better than anyone that we solve problems by drawing circles and not by drawing lines, and that is what the NLC will do this week, by drawing us together, by drawing circles,” said Mayor Dickens, adding he looked forward to learning what has worked for other cities stating that problems and solutions have no party affiliations, “…they don’t know any geographic boundaries and we’re all looking forward to see what each city has to offer.”
With more than 40 workshops to choose from, attendees could explore a variety of topics. From resilience to public safety, expanding transportation options, and promoting equitable economic development and workforce development, the learning options seemed endless. In addition to workshops featuring peers and experts, attendees also had an opportunity to get an insider’s view of several Atlanta projects and top-tier institutions through mobile tours. Those who registered for mobile tours had a chance to explore the Tyler Perry Studios, the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport as well as one of the city’s most diverse and newly renovated communities through the Atlanta Beltline.
Attendees also heard from NLC leadership including Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma, WA who ended her presidency on November 18. In recapping her one year as president, Mayor Woodards emphasized how powerful the equation of “People + Partnerships = Endless Possibilities.” She challenged members to look deep into their communities “…to value and prioritize our residents, to forge new partnerships, and to expand the realm of possibility for everyone.”
Newly elected NLC President David Sander of Rancho Cordova, CA in his incoming speech unveiled the power of municipalities as “laboratories of democracy: partnership, innovation and service.” Sharing the story of his own community becoming incorporated, Mayor-elect Sander noted that democracy thrives at the local level. His year will be focused on promoting civility, highlighting the innovative answers that local leaders devise to address their municipality’s most persistent challenges and their commitment to service in their communities. As he said, “They’re places for discovery, where we have the opportunity to explore and test new ideas that contribute to our broader understanding of the world.”
Noting the role of NLC in supporting these types of connections, Mayor-elect Sander said, “NLC is the ONLY organization that facilitates these kinds of city partnerships, where we can experiment in collaboration with one another.”
City Summit ended with a grand kick-off to NLC’s 100th year with the announcement of a roadshow that will bring NLC to 100 cities across the country. Cities can apply to join the roadshow at nlc100.org.