Focused on the issues most important to their constituents, mayors have to ensure public resources get used wisely and in a way that achieves results while respecting the law and democratic values.
As mayors from across the nation gather for The United States Conference of Mayors’ Annual Meeting this weekend, here are five that are practicing good governance in small and mid-sized cities.
Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City
Once dubbed one of the five most innovative mayors in the country by Newsweek, Cornett has been credited with helping his city shed a collective 1 million pounds through an ambitious health campaign. He’s also invested nearly $2 billion to improve schools and infrastructure and boosted civic engagement by including residents on various subcommittees. Cornett, who’s been mayor since 2004, is now the longest-serving leader among the 50 biggest cities in the U.S. and is hoping to take his changemaking ways statewide by running for governor.
Svante Myrick, Ithaca, N.Y.
First elected at age 24, Myrick – now 30 – is known for hanging an LED sign in his office that displays text messages from constituents. But more importantly, he’s tackled the heroin epidemic by proposing a detox center, methadone clinic and supervised safe injection site. “It’s a great example of good governance because although it’s experimental, there are early signs of success where it’s been done (like Vancouver, B.C.),” says Alex Torpey, former mayor of South Orange, N.J., and visiting professor of governance and technology at Seton Hall University. The idea may seem counterintuitive, but Torpey says Myrick’s team “brought in all possible stakeholders, did appropriate research and made a really brave decision to try something to help attack this problem.”
Greg Fischer, Louisville, Ky.
This Bluegrass State inventor turned businessman turned politician was elected mayor in 2010. Last year, he was voted the country’s “most innovative” mayor in a Politico survey and credited with driving the creation of a new economic development agency and an innovation office. One of his administration’s top goals includes making the city more compassionate, as well as improving education and creating “good-paying” jobs. “Throughout this tenure, the city of Louisville has moved from an old industrial town without a lot of industry to a modern creative class magnet in the Midwest,” says William Hatcher, associate professor of political science at Augusta University.
David Bieter, Boise, Idaho
This fourth-term mayor – the longest in Boise’s history – has expanded access to childhood education programs and affordable housing while taking a bold stance to protect immigrants and refugees. His city does better than many others at ensuring the safety of residents and providing them access to hospital beds and certain health outcomes, helping Boise rank at the top of the America’s best-run cities study.
Kasim Reed, Atlanta
Under his leadership, the local government of this bigger city has strengthened its economy and developed urban amenities “in a manner that is effective, efficient and fair,” notes Hatcher. The second-term mayor established a bike share program to help with traffic congestion and pushed for new transit infrastructure. Recently, Reed pledged to uphold the Paris climate accord and joined the Global Parliament of Mayors, which is tackling local issues resulting from worldwide problems. “Mayors need to be at the forefront of global challenges like immigration, social mobility, climate change and resiliency,” Reed has said.
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