Cities are essential to economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Local elected officials are responsible for the physical and civic infrastructure America depends on, such as roads, bridges, and water systems. Cities deliver critical services to residents, such as public safety, workforce development and housing. Yet America’s cities, towns and villages are facing a double whammy—mounting expenses related to the pandemic, while tax revenues are declining—and are in urgent need of federal aid to maintain municipal operations, keep essential workers on the job, distribute vaccines, stabilize main streets and small businesses, and jumpstart economic recovery. In spite of the difficult economic challenges cities have faced since the recession and the multitude of challenges in 2020, local leaders have risen to the occasion. Many of our nation’s cities have made great strides forward through innovative partnerships, policies, programs and financing models. Cities large and small are cultivating desirable places for families to live, work and play and for businesses to succeed.  

In this session, local leaders from across the nation will discuss how their communities are solving the most pressing challenges of our time. Their stories and perspectives will help the 117th Congress consider the best ways to partner with cities to move America forward toward economic recovery.


  • The Honorable Marilyn Strickland, U.S. Representative (D-WA) 
  • The Honorable Luke Bronin, Mayor, City of Hartford, Connecticut 
  • The Honorable Quentin M. Hart, Mayor, City of Waterloo, Iowa 
  • The Honorable Karen Hunt, Mayor, City of Coppell, Texas 
  • The Honorable Soo Ing-Moody, Mayor, Town of Twisp, Washington
  • The Honorable Vince R. Williams, Mayor, Union City, Georgia and 1st Vice President,  National League of Cities
  • Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director, National League of Cities
  • Irma Esparza Diggs, Senior Executive and Director of Federal Advocacy, National League  of Cities
  • Christiana McFarland, Ph.D., Research Director, National League of Cities   

Speaker Bios

Marilyn Strickland

The Honorable Marilyn Strickland, U.S. Representative (D-WA) 

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland proudly represents Washington’s 10th Congressional District, which covers Pierce County, Thurston County and parts of Mason County. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Strickland is the first African-American to represent Washington State at the federal level, and the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress in its 230-year history. 

Raised in the South Sound, Strickland graduated from Tacoma Public Schools and earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Washington. She went on to earn an MBA from Clark-Atlanta University, a Historically Black College and University. 

Strickland’s father, who fought in World War II and Korea, met her mother while he was stationed in Korea after the war. Strickland’s parents endured discrimination and hardships that she could never imagine. They wanted her to have opportunities they were denied and taught her to work hard, fight for what’s right, serve the community, and to stand up for the underdog. Those values continue to inspire Congresswoman Strickland every day as she advocates for Washington’s 10th Congressional District in Congress. 

Prior to Strickland’s election to Congress, she served as Mayor of Tacoma, where she helped transform a city and economy crippled by a deep recession into a destination for families, workers, artists, tourists and entrepreneurs. In addition to attracting over $1 billion in investment for housing and businesses, she was instrumental in investing over $500 million in infrastructure for roads, bridges, transportation, and the Port, creating over 40,000 new jobs in the Tacoma region.  

A firm believer that there is dignity in all work, Strickland led successful efforts to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave, paving the way for statewide action. Her city-wide Environmental Action Plan set goals to improve our air, water, and health. She launched an award-winning summer jobs program for high school students that led to the Tacoma Tideflats Certification Program, creating a pipeline for students to fill high-demand jobs in the maritime and construction trades. She and her team raised the high school graduation rate in Tacoma from 55% to 89% by making education a civic priority. Strickland was proud to stand with the LGBTQ community in support of Marriage Equality and transgender rights, and pass background checks for gun sales in Tacoma before statewide action. 

As a Freshman Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Strickland carries with her the experience of rebuilding an economy after an economic recession. She will always be a strong voice for change so that our most vulnerable community members are served as we re-build an economy that works for all of us.  

Strickland serves as a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in addition to the House Committee on Armed Services. She is also a Member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus, Democratic Women’s Caucus, and the New Democrat Coalition. 

Congresswoman Strickland resides in Tacoma, Washington with her husband.  

Luke Bronin

The Honorable Luke Bronin
Mayor, Hartford, Connecticut 

After taking office in 2016, Mayor Luke Bronin led the city through the biggest fiscal crisis in the city’s history, working to put Hartford on a path to fiscal stability. In addition to promoting economic development and investment, his administration has focused on building opportunity for Hartford residents through key initiatives like the Youth Service Corps and the Reentry Welcome Center. Prior to becoming mayor, Mayor Bronin served in senior positions in both federal and state government. In 2013, he was appointed by then-Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy to serve as General Counsel. Prior to his role in the Governor’s office, he served in the Obama Administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that role, he helped lead the federal government’s efforts to isolate and disrupt international terrorist groups, and advanced U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Previously, he served as the Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, as an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, and as Chief of Staff to the President of Property and Casualty Operations at the Hartford Financial Services Group, one of the capital city’s largest employers. Mayor Bronin served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was a member of the military’s anti-corruption task force during his deployment to Afghanistan from September 2010 to April 2011. He earned his B.A. and J.D. from Yale University and his M.A. from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

Quentin M. Hart

The Honorable Quentin M. Hart, Mayor, City of Waterloo, Iowa

Now serving his third term, Mayor Quentin Hart is the first African American to serve as Mayor of Waterloo, Iowa. Mayor Hart took the office in January 2016. He served three terms as Ward 4 Councilman from 2008 through 2015 including an appointment as first African American Mayor Pro-Tem for the City of Waterloo. Previously, Mayor Hart provided leadership for multicultural initiatives and promoting awareness and appreciation for diversity on campus and in the community as Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs for Hawkeye Community College. He received his MAE in Postsecondary Education: Student Affairs from the University of Northern Iowa and has a BA in Sociology from Minnesota State and a Liberal Arts Degree from Iowa Central Community College. Mayor Hart serves with the US Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, Accelerator for America Advisory Board, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, and President of the Iowa League of Cities, as well as numerous regional and state organizations and appointments. 

Karen Hunt

The Honorable Karen Hunt, Mayor, City of Coppell, Texas 

With more than 35​ years of experience in the commercial banking industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Mayor Karen Hunt has a strong financial background. Her career has spanned large national banks, regional and small independent banks. She is currently the Market President - Copp​ell for Frost Bank. Mayor Hunt held the office of Place 7, Coppell City Council from 2008 to 2012. She served as Mayor ProTem from 2009 to 2010. She has served the city as its representative on the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition, the alternate to Irving on the Regional Transportation Council and twice on the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Board. She has served as vice president and then president of the Metroplex Mayors. She presently serves as the President Elect on the Board of Directors for Texas Municipal League. Since moving to Coppell in 1997, Mayor Hunt has been involved with the community through various volunteer efforts including Exchange Club, PTO Boards, Coppell Chamber of Commerce, the City of Coppell Economic Development Board, and the City’s Vision 2030 committee. She is a graduate of the first Leadership Coppell class, sponsored jointly by the City of Coppell and the Coppell Chamber of Commerce. Her civic experiences include service in a leadership role on boards of the Coppell Chamber of Commerce, Coppell Rotary, Coppell Women’s Club, Coppell ISD Education Foundation, Assistance League of Coppell, Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce, North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and Metrocrest Services. She presently serves on the Executive Board of the North Texas Commission as the Second Vice Chair. Mayor Hunt holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Southern Methodist University. 

Soo Ing-Moody

The Honorable Soo Ing-Moody, Mayor, Town of Twisp, Washington

Soo Ing-Moody is President of the Association of Washington Cities and the mayor of Twisp since 2010, a small town in the Methow Valley of Washington State. 

Soo is a trained social scientist who has led her community through several federally declared disasters, the largest wildfires in Washington State history and now a pandemic. Soo is known for her active engagement in addressing local, regional, and state policy issues particularly in the areas of emergency management, economic resiliency, and recovery. She is a strong advocate for cities and towns to have the tools needed to sustain healthy, diverse, inclusive, and vital communities. As President, Soo chairs the Association of Washington Cities’ Legislative Priorities Committee, and serves on the Equity Committee. 

Originally from Canada, Soo holds an M.A. in Sociology, and an M.A. in English Literature from the Universitaet Freiburg im Breisgau; a B.A. in German Language and Literature from the University of Toronto; and a certificate in Human Resources Management from Ryerson University in Toronto. She founded and chairs the Okanogan Council of Governments in Okanogan County, Washington and currently serves on the United Nation’s Urban Economy Forum Steering Committee.   

Vince R. Williams

The Honorable Vince R. Williams, Mayor, Union City, Georgia and 1st Vice President,  National League of Cities

Elected to city council in 2007, Mayor Williams’s first priority was to create a strong economic base for Union City by attracting, professional and commercial business that would transform the city into a full-scale, financially sound livable community. Taking the office of Mayor in May 2013, Vince R. Williams is Union City’s twentieth mayor. His work has been recognized on the State level by Governor Nathan Deal which led to appointments to the County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council, Georgia’s 911 Advisory Council and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Mayor Williams is also a recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award given by the office of Secretary of State and the 2017 President’s Volunteer Service Award given by President Barack Obama. As a long-standing community enthusiast, Mayor Williams has had the opportunity to serve on many committees and boards such as the Georgia Municipal Association President (2020 – 2021), National League of Cities 1st Vice President, member of the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association and Atlanta Regional Commission Board of Directors, among others. He also has over 25 years in Corporate America. Mayor Williams is a graduate of Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee where he earned a B.A. in Political Science. He is a 2011 graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, received Special Recognition from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department for Emergency/Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity Leadership Institute in 2011, and in 2012 Mayor Williams completed the Robert E. Knox Jr., Municipal Leadership Institute program through the University of Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Municipal Association. He is a Class of 2016 Regional Leadership Institute graduate. 

Clarence E. Anthony

Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director, National League of Cities

Clarence E. Anthony is CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities (NLC), the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people. Under his leadership, NLC has advanced policies that expand local control and provide direct funding for local programs related to public safety, infrastructure, economic development, and sustainability. Mr. Anthony began his career in public service as mayor of South Bay, Florida, for 24 years. As mayor, he created new educational and economic opportunities for residents, including building his community’s first library, which was named in his honor. During his time in elected office, Mr. Anthony served as president of the Florida League of Cities and National League of Cities. In Palm Beach County, he was part of the founding group of Palm Beach County Black Elected Officials, the tourism development board, Discover Palm Beach County, and a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Following his time in office, Mr. Anthony represented local governments on the world stage as Founding Treasurer and Interim Manager of United Cities and Local Governments. He later founded Anthony Government Solutions, a firm focused on strategic visioning, policy development, and management restructuring for government and private sector organizations. 

Irma Esparza Diggs

Irma Esparza Diggs, Senior Executive and Director of Federal Advocacy, National League  of Cities

Irma Esparza Diggs serves as the director of federal advocacy for the National League of Cities. She leads the organization’s grassroots and lobbying efforts to ensure the 1,700 member cities have a voice in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining NLC, she served as Chief of Staff in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan and John King. Prior to joining President Obama’s Administration, she led the U.S. House Democratic Caucus as Executive Director. Irma has also served as the D.C. City Council Chief of Staff, Congressional Liaison at the Department of Commerce during President Clinton’s Administration, aide to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from her home state of Texas, and as a key operative for the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees. Irma earned her BA from The Catholic University of America and an MPA from American University. 

Christiana McFarland

McFarland, Ph.D., Research Director, National League of Cities 

Christiana K. McFarland is the Research Director of the National League of Cities, the nation’s largest advocacy, resource and research organization dedicated to strengthening cities. She directs the organization’s research agenda and conducts NLC’s major research initiatives, including City Fiscal Conditions and State of the Cities. Dr. McFarland also launched and leads NLC’s research partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues and is the principal researcher on economic development, municipal finance, local democracy and city-state relationship issues. She has been with NLC since 2001, and prior to her post as Research Director, launched NLC’s finance and economic development program, focused on supporting municipal leadership and outcomes in economic development, workforce development and municipal finance. Dr. McFarland has a B.A. in Political Science and Economics and Master of Public Policy from The George Washington University, and a PhD in Planning, Governance and Globalization from Virginia Tech.