The Annual Meeting is always the highlight of the year for the Municipal Association. Last week, more than 1,100 elected officials, city staff, speakers, exhibitors and other guests participated in classes, learned from each other, and shared successes and challenges.
There were more than 20 educational sessions covering topics from public safety to parliamentary procedure and economic development to ethics filings. Audio, handouts and articles related to many of the sessions are already posted on the Association's website. Others will be posted later in the week.
Charleston and the Lowcountry always provide a great backdrop to showcase local successes. The meeting started with a mobile tour attended by more than 100 officials who visited Mt. Pleasant's waterfront park, Shem Creek park and business incubator to learn about how that town's success could be duplicated. Despite a very hot day, the participants from cities of all sizes learned a great deal from the collaborative process Mt. Pleasant has employed in its economic development approach.
The Friday morning opening session kicked off with Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts being elected president of the Association along with four new board members.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley gave the keynote address to a capacity crowd gathered in the Riviera Theater on Charleston's King Street. The venue was fitting since it was refurbished under Riley's leadership (interestingly the theater was built in 1939, the year the Association hired its first executive director). Riley's high energy speech about the power of collaboration and teamwork in local government was a great start to the conference. If you missed his address, listen to it here.
SC Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt followed the keynote with another capacity crowd learning about how to make their cities "entrepreneur ready." Hitt reinforced the Commerce Department's commitment to small business and high-growth potential entrepreneurs, in particular. He led a lively discussion with four entrepreneurs involved with businesses as diverse as HR software development and sustainable agriculture. The big take-away from the panelists to city officials was to find your niche and grow it! Listen to the session here. There's also an article in the summer issue of Cities Mean Business magazine showcasing these entrepreneurs (see pg 6). Or read the article from the Charleston Regional Business Journal.
One take-away from the break-out sessions that officials need to pay particular attention to is the impending changes related to financial reporting of pension liabilities. These changes put forth through GASB 68 have the potential to make cities look insolvent. While this is not the case, city officials need to educate themselves on how to explain this accounting change to people in their cities. Get background here.
A second take-away reinforced many times throughout the meeting is the importance of collaboration and partnerships in successful cities. This came through loud and clear in all of the the economic development sessions...business and government must work together!
A highlight of the Annual Meeting is the awards breakfast. This year, eight cities won Achievement Awards recognizing their great work in a variety of categories.
The 74th Annual Meeting is now one for the books. The Association staff wants to hear from people who attended what they thought about the meeting and what can make next year's even better. Please complete our survey.