2017 Annual Meeting: Small towns, big storms and cooperation across boundaries

Big cities and small towns can find success by using a variety of diverse strategies and tools. One approach is to enhance what a city already has instead of embarking on a drastic reinvention. Cities and towns might be wiser to do this instead of spending precious resources on remaking themselves in the hopes of becoming a different community entirely.

This approach is what Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, will address as the keynote speaker for the 2017 Annual Meeting. He will illustrate how cities large and small can shine by taking a close look at what’s already good or shows potential.

Ed McMahon, keynote speaker, portrait photo
Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute

McMahon recently visited a 13,000-person town in rural Colorado that had two big draws: The first was baseball. Families would come from all over the Great Plains for days at a time for kids’ baseball games.

"The parks and recreation director had a plan on the books for 10 years to build two more baseball fields, but he didn’t have any money to do that because all the money was in the industrial recruitment budget to try to get a plant to move there," said McMahon. "We told the city council, ‘build a baseball field — that’s an economic development project,’ and now they’ve done that."

The Colorado town’s second big draw was rodeo events.

"We told them, ‘you’ve got all these people bringing their horses to town. Create an equestrian trail,’" said McMahon.

"Now they are teaching equestrian management skills at the community college, and people are coming in from Europe to this little town to learn how to manage ranches and horses. Look at what you can do, what your assets are and try to build on those things, instead of trying to compete with everyone else in the world. They weren’t going to move any new plants to eastern Colorado."


The Annual Meeting registration process will mirror what’s been done in the past. All attendees must use the Association’s online process for reserving hotel rooms and registering for the meeting. Each city will receive an appointment time for June 2, 5 or 6, based on a drawing held on May 22.

Municipalities that want to participate in the drawing must select a representative (only one per city/town) who must register for the drawing by May 19. During the city’s June appointment, Association staff will assist the municipal representative in registering all officials who will be attending from that city.

Hotel reservations must be made by June 15, and registration for the Annual Meeting must be made by July 5. For non-municipal attendees, hotel and Annual Meeting reservations must be made online from June 7 – 15.

Annual Meeting preconference choices

Municipal officials will have three preconference workshops to choose from for the 2017 Annual Meeting in Hilton Head Island. All will take place the morning of Thursday, July 20. The preconference workshops are additional educational opportunities and are not included in the Annual Meeting registration fee.

Planning for the Future through Redevelopment

Sometimes getting out into the field is a memorable way to take in the lessons of good government practices. For years, the Association has offered preconference mobile workshops for attendees to experience firsthand how their peers are attracting investment, improving quality of life and meeting the challenges of municipal government. This year’s mobile workshop travels through Hilton Head Island, which is improving aging facilities and infrastructure and encouraging private development. See what the town is doing to implement redevelopment strategies that can be replicated in any city or town.

Cost: $60 (includes breakfast). This workshop involves some walking.

Speak Up with Confidence

Public speaking can be fun for some but painful for others. Even the most experienced speakers can learn new ways to perfect their message and strengthen their connection with an audience. Local officials will learn how to build audience rapport, perfect their delivery, and communicate with clarity and impact.

Cost: $90. This session is limited to 35 participants who have not registered for this workshop at previous events.

Keeping Residents Connected to the City’s Vision

Resident engagement is a central part of a dynamic city. After all, a city’s vision grows from residents’ input and council’s leadership. Carolyn Sawyer, founder and chief executive officer of the Tom Sawyer Company, will give participants new ways to nurture residents’ connection to their city throughout the visioning process and beyond.

Cost: $60.