Leaders discuss strategies for supporting local smart growth

Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council Advisory Board met in Washington, DC to discuss strategy and local progress.

On November 10, the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered for its third Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The central topic of discussion was how to support local leaders who are striving to build great communities through smart growth strategies.

“Interest in the Local Leaders Council has been impressive, and the incoming stories about local smart growth work are inspiring,” said Mark Mallory, former mayor of Cincinnati, OH. “Opportunities for mayors, council members, commissioners, and other leaders to connect and support one another make a difference. As a leader, you know you are not alone and that you have smart colleagues in other communities who are willing to help you.”

Representing large and small communities in the South, West, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, the Advisory Board reviewed the activities of the past year and deliberated on upcoming opportunities to support local smart growth implementation. The Local Leaders Council’s extensive membership now includes over 200 leaders from 42 states, representing urban, suburban, and rural communities. The past year saw the council host several successful workshops and networking events for leaders along with the formation of a new Maryland Chapter.

“Highlighting the best of what’s out there in smart growth implementation is highly useful to leaders,” said Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis, MO Board of Aldermen. “We want to know what strategies are working, and it is valuable to have a platform to share our successes with other leaders.” Reed presented on some of St. Louis’ best practices at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference earlier this year in Denver, CO.

This year’s Advisory Board meeting also included the unveiling of a new set of custom policy resources designed with the board’s guidance. Members of the Local Leaders Council will now be able to browse model policies that have worked in other communities, with subjects ranging from smarter zoning and parking codes to storefront improvement and accessory dwellings (“granny flats”) to vacant properties management. Created specifically for members of the Local Leaders Council, these resources spotlight top policies and implementation successes in economic development, housing, transportation, and sustainability.

At the meeting, the board also discussed the Local Leaders Policy Forum—a daylong conference for members to present solutions and seek advice from one another. The 2014 Policy Forum attracted 65 leaders from all over the country to collaborate on revitalization strategies that help achieve economic, equity, and sustainability goals. The board hopes to replicate and expand the event for 2015 with more participants and increased opportunities to workshop the specific challenges faced by individual communities.

“One of the most beneficial parts of the Local Leaders Council, for me, has been being able to bring these principles back home to Arizona and show that there is a way to do the things we are trying to do,” said Mesa, AZ Councilmember Dave Richins.

Incoming Advisory Board Co-chair Mayor Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville, TN, led the meeting. New board members Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen (St. Louis, MO) and Councilmember Lisa Bender (Minneapolis, MN) were welcomed to the board. Other attendees included outgoing Co-chair and Board Member Emeritus Mayor Mark Mallory (Cincinnati, OH), Mayor Rick Danner (Greer, SC), Councilmember Brad Lander (New York, NY), Councilmember Dave Richins (Mesa, AZ), and Councilmember Tommy Wells (Washington, DC). Other members participating included Councilmember Ian Thomas (Columbia, MO) and Council President Jake Day (Salisbury, MD) who also serves on the Maryland Chapter Advisory Board.

“It’s exciting to see the progress that the Local Leaders Council has made in the two years since it launched,” said Rogero. “I look forward to the year ahead and continuing to collaborate with a great group of officials from across the country.”

Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council is a nonpartisan national network of elected and appointed decision makers in local government who are passionate about building great communities. Through the program, leaders are able to network with each other, showcase best practices, and gain access to numerous policy and other resources.

Apply for membership or nominate your local leader here.

Local Leaders Council