NLC Past Presidents to Reflect on Leadership at Congress of Cities

Past Presidents
Past Presidents

On a beautiful and tranquil Sunday, the suburban Marriott Fairfield Inn was near capacity. Guests were in for the typical fall events such as football, family reunions and weddings. At around 6:30 p.m. when guests were getting ready for dinner at nearby restaurants, the structure suddenly filled with the heavy odor of gas.

Intending to press the brake, a gentleman hit the accelerator and crashed his car through a gas main, ending up inside the building. Debbie Tyler, the hotel assistant manager, pulled the alarm, knowing that the building would blow in one minute or ten and proceeded to knock on every door.

Firefighters arrived just as the eerie creeks and pings of an impending explosion gathered steam. The building exploded, leaving only war zone like rubble. Miraculously there were no casualties due to Debbie’s quick action. When asked by reporters why she risked her life to save others, she replied, “It was my training.”

And so we are reminded that preparation and training are critical to both the art and science of leadership. Most instructive is hearing from those who have served on the front lines of leadership--in particular, those individuals who have led and served not only within their own cities but as National League of Cities Presidents elected by their city peers from across the country.  

Former NLC President and speaker Jim Hunt, consultant Malcom Chapman and author and speaker Sylvia Lovely, have collaborated to develop “The Journey to Leadership,” a project designed to mine the nuggets of leadership out of the experiences of NLC past Presidents.

As an inaugural event to be held at the upcoming NLC Congress of Cities in Austin, we welcome participants to “A 90th Anniversary Conversation on Today’s Challenges.”

The workshop, in keeping with the theme of this year’s Congress of Cities, The Future of Cities, is designed to explore the intersection of NLC’s rich 90 year history with the present and future. The workshop brings together four former National League of Cities Presidents to explore and share their own leadership journeys and lessons learned. Panelist include:

  • Dennis W. Archer, former Mayor of Detroit, NLC President 2001;
  • Henry G. Cisneros, former Mayor of San Antonio, NLC President 1986;
  • James C. Hunt, Councilman of Clarksburg, West Virginia, NLC President 2006; and
  • Marie Lopez- Rogers, Mayor of Avondale, Arizona, NLC President 2013.

Don Borut, NLC's Executive Director from 1990 to 2012 will moderate the session and current NLC Executive Director and past President Clarence Anthony, will provide welcome remarks.

Following the panel discussion, Malcom Chapman and Sylvia Lovely will facilitate  discussion and reactions to the panelists statements. Takeaways will include directives on the way forward as leaders of America’s cities and guidance for future NLC leadership development initiatives and opportunities through “The Journey to Leadership” project.

In a changed world transformed by the internet, bombardment of news story by the hour, and the crumbling of once revered institutions, we invite participants to explore how much has changed and how much has endured in city leadership regardless of the size of your city or the issues which change with the rapid fire news cycle.

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