Celebrating the Past and Looking Foward to the Future

Judy Pearson, Member Relations Coordinator

The National League of Cities (NLC) Congress of Cities and Exposition took place in Austin, Texas on November 19-22, 2014. NLC asks for volunteers from the state leagues to help staff the conference. They choose ten people from around the country, giving preference to those state leagues that have not sent someone recently. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the conference along with representatives from Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Minnesota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Washington, and Texas. This year, NLC was celebrating 90 years of service and advocacy on behalf of municipalities around the country, and they did so with more than 3,400 municipal and state league officials in attendance. The theme of the conference, however, was all about looking forward: The Future of Cities.

One of the core beliefs of NLC is “anticipating the needs of communities and developing strategies to meet those needs and improve the quality of life.”  As Austin is known as one of the most progressive cities in the country, it was a very appropriate place to look in depth at the future of cities in America. Learning opportunities included mobile workshops around the city on topics ranging from Library Best Practices to Affordable and Green Housing to Urban Farms and Local Food. On-site session topics ranged from Public Safety and Crime Prevention to Open Government and the Promise of Financial Transparency to Urban Development: Sustainable Downtown Development. There were also a number of classes held as part of the NLC University, a professional development initiative for new and seasoned elected officials to hone their skills and better govern their municipalities. These classes can be taken in a variety of places and mediums to best fit the location and learning style of the participants. The Congress of Cities provided another venue for officials to participate in these classes. For more information on NLC University, check out the information on the NLC website: www.nlc.org.

Of course, the future of cities would not be complete without also including the future leaders of those cities. The Congress of Cities includes a Youth Delegate Program and a Young Elected Leaders Lounge for networking with other young leaders. The Youth Delegates were invited to attend any of the general sessions and keynote addresses. The Young Elected Leaders Lounge provides an opportunity to connect with other officials around the country who are just getting started in municipal government. And to better connect with that generation, the entire Conference program and information was available on the NLC GO mobile app. It was a very convenient way to get up to date information and keep your entire itinerary at your fingertips! There was also an exhibit hall with more than 200 vendors anxious to show attendees how they can help improve their cities.

The week in Austin was not all work, though! There was so much to see and do and there was plenty of time to get out and enjoy the city. Austin caters to pedestrians and cyclists and is one of the friendliest places I have visited. The people are anxious to share their hospitality and tell you the best places to eat and shop. And some of the best networking takes place away from the conference activities when everyone relaxes and is ready to laugh.

Overall, because there was such a wide variety of session topics and opportunities to network and learn from other city and league officials, the Congress of Cities is well worth the trip. So mark your calendars for a trip to Nashville, Tennessee November 4-7, 2015 for the next NLC Congress of Cities!

Judy Pearson is Member Relations Coordinator for the New Hampshire Municipal Association. She may be contacted at 800.852.3358 or at jpearson@nhmunicipal.org.