By Jerry Faust
Note: This is a sidebar to the feature article, The LMC Annual Conference—Then and Now.
Why should I attend the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference? This is a question I ask myself every year. Here are some of the answers I’ve realized over the past 17 years.
When I attended my first conference in Rochester on June 13, 1996, I only went for one day because I didn’t know what to expect. Plus, I reasoned, I just could not take any more time off from my work. This was my first year as a councilmember, and our mayor encouraged me to attend. I came away from that one-day experience impressed by the variety of subjects that I wanted to explore further to better our city.
One issue I learned about was legislative advocacy. I discovered that the League has four policy committees that develop legislative positions, so I signed up to participate on one of the committees. Policy committee involvement is even easier today because members can join the meetings by conference call if needed.
The next year, I found that when I mention the League at the Capitol— people listen. Our city experienced extensive flooding that year. This was not new, but we hadn’t effectively dealt with the problem in the past. With renewed political resolve, a solid plan, and the League’s guidance, we were successful in convincing state leaders of our needs. The League was an important player in this victory because it is viewed as an honest broker with the highest level of integrity possible. I find attending the Annual Conference a great way to stay connected with this organization that effectively advocates for cities at the Capitol.
Perfect networking opportunity
One of the greatest benefits of the Annual Conference is the opportunity to network with peers and experts. It’s a great venue to talk one-on-one with other individuals who are as dedicated to their communities as you are to yours. Everyone shares the lessons they’ve learned, and you hear from experts about implementing best practices. You can pose a question on any municipal subject, and someone will find you the answer.
I have met scores of city officials, which has exponentially expanded my understanding of city issues and aided our city in adopting or modifying solutions that other cities have implemented. In addition to our councilmembers and city manager, all of our department directors have also attended at least one conference in the past five years. The knowledge they’ve gained has helped them avoid “reinventing the wheel” many times.
Then there are the exhibitors. Not only do they help defray the cost of the conference for attendees, but where else could you find so many vendors in one place? You can talk to company representatives who have provided services to other cities. You can also compare vendors. It’s an efficient way to hone in on the best value for your community.
Worth every penny
I know that the cost of attending the conference (fee, hotel, mileage, etc.) can be an impediment, but believe me, it is an investment worth making. We have found that our elected and appointed officials learn about the latest emerging trends at the Annual Conference, and that benefits our city in the form of better decisions and results. The Annual Conference is something that you can’t afford to miss!
So there are many reasons to attend. Whether you are a veteran conference attendee or brand new, come see me, and I’ll guarantee that by the end of the conference you’ll feel right at home. But more importantly, if you ignore the League’s 100 years of successfully pursuing the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of cities, you’ll miss out on maximizing your potential service to yourself and your community.
After the conference, you’ll go back to your community inspired, motivated, and better equipped to take on your current problems as well as those that have yet to arise. I look forward to seeing you there!
Jerry Faust is the mayor of St. Anthony Village. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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