Networking, education, and a visit from Governor Roy Cooper.
It was the biggest week of the year for the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
As our government affairs staffers were hard at work at the Legislative Building in Raleigh for the lawmaking scramble known as “crossover” (a live-or-die point for most bills), hundreds of municipal leaders were in Concord for the largest gathering of its kind—CityVision 2023, the League’s three-day annual conference that featured more than 20 engaging speakers and multiple tracks of focus on timely local government issues.
CityVision 2023 brought out attendees from cities and towns of all sizes. The conference, which also featured tours of Concord’s operations and attractions, was, as always, geared to empower officials in attendance to bring fresh ideas, knowledge, and perspective back to their own municipalities for the betterment of the state as a whole. Special guest Gov. Roy Cooper in remarks to CityVision-goers noted that those in attendance were most likely to hear concerns directly from the people they represent and were as such best suited to make a difference.
“It makes you really and truly the most qualified leaders in our entire government system to make decisions,” Governor Cooper told attendees, adding he’d like to see cities and towns have more autonomy in charting their futures. The governor further noted the great communication his team has with the League and its members on goals and other matters of interest to cities and towns. ”I am deeply grateful for your work,” he said.
Governor Cooper also provided updates and perspective on overarching issues, like the pandemic and public health, the economy, education, and funding streams that have helped communities succeed in such hard or demanding times. He spoke specifically on the federal relief funds that have come down since the pandemic and legislation to build for better infrastructure.
“I talked to President Biden just yesterday and he wants to work with us to make sure that we can implement these significant funds that we have in place,” the governor said. “And that’s a challenge for us. But we’ve got to keep these same relationships and the same cooperation in order to make sure that we do the implementation that we know needs to happen.” Governor Cooper also encouraged attention toward community resilience and funds supporting it. “Storms are getting more severe,” he said, but he noted the presence of resources to help communities fare better.
It’s a rewarding challenge to serve in public office and see goals through, the governor emphasized. ”I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being willing to step up and run for office,” he told the audience of mayors, council members, managers, clerks, and others from local government. “It’s really hard these days. In particular with social media and how vicious people can be. But I am a prisoner of hope … I believe that if we continue to present facts, evidence-based policy, that we work to convince people that we’re all trying to work toward the common good, we will be successful.”
With eyes toward success, city and town officials at CityVision attended informative sessions on hot topics in the muni-sphere—the power of diversity, strategies on infrastructure, federal grants, regional partnerships, and much more.
CityVision also featured the installation of a newly elected League Board of Directors, featuring a new president in Fuquay-Varina Commissioner William Harris along with First Vice President Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton of Durham and Second Vice President Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall of Albemarle. Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler, who served as president in the previous year, will continue his League leadership as Immediate Past President. (See ‘New Board’ article on page TK for more information.)
Lastly, CityVision 2023 saw honors given to standout municipalities that participated in the League’s Advancing Municipal Leaders (AML) program. AML is a governance education program to help municipal officials gain the knowledge and skills needed to be effective leaders. Mayor Neisler, from the stage and before a packed ballroom, presented awards to officials from Gastonia, Laurel Park, and Ramseur, in addition to the Mid-East Commission.
“The world of municipal government continues to change and become more complex,” Mayor Neisler said. “Staying ahead means not only being educated, but understanding a vast number of evolving municipal topics and issues.”
Since 2020, the AML program has trained close to 1,100 municipal officials through a variety of delivery methods.
The annual conference importantly provided time for municipal officials from across the state to network with one another, exchange ideas, and strengthen bonds. Concord Mayor Bill Dusch and the city’s council made all feel welcomed and empowered to enjoy thoroughly the event, which also featured a Concord-hosted dinner and entertainment with impressive and laughter-inspiring magician Bryant Saint.
The League would like to thank the City of Concord and all others who made CityVision 2023 such a rousing and memorable success. Every town and city in North Carolina depends on local government services to keep communities running. So, more than any other sector, your work impacts all North Carolinians every day. CityVision 2023, even more than an opportunity to gather and learn from one another, was a celebration of that accomplishment.
And that turns our eyes to the next one: CityVision 2024, set for April in host-city Winston-Salem.