Small Cities, Get Creative!

Small city leaders showed up by the hundreds last week in Austin. In the Texas capital known for its resourcefulness and creativity, small city officials were particularly vocal about their own imaginative approaches problem-solving and enterprising attitude towards today’s municipal challenges.

Ken Shetter, Mayor of Burleson, Texas, offered a few of his inspired ideas for bold small city officials who love their communities and want to make them even better:

1. Celebrate your city’s history. Small cities already have have strong identities, and by celebrating your city’s history, you can reinforce its identity in a fun way that engages the entire population. Honoring the past by preserving a historic block or throwing an anniversary festival will benefit the whole community, connecting generations and honing in on a powerful shared loyalty.

2. Get people walking. Small cities have the opportunity to become highly walkable, and you’ll have a big advantage if your residents can walk all over your city. Why? Millennials want to live in a place where they can walk. The Millennial Generation–the largest generation in history–is drawn to communities where they don’t need to own a car. To keep younger generations, your city must be easy to get around. It’s a great marketing opportunity to attract young people, and it doubles as a way to keep your current residents active and interested in their city.

3. Tell your city’s story on social media. Whether or not you personally use Facebook or Twitter, many of your residents get their information almost exclusively through these platforms. It can be a little intimidating to begin, but the opportunity is huge, so invest time and research into social media. Here’s the payoff: You have the chance to tell your city’s story through the voice of its leadership and residents–not by outsiders.

4. Make information available. Residents will be much more trusting and take more ownership of their city if they know it’s easy to get the information they want. Transparency is essential to small city leadership, where residents will be loyal if they know they can rely on their officials to communicate honestly. The city of Burleson, for instance, publishes its check register online. This way, residents can easily see where money is going. For any complaints, they get many more accolades.

5. Produce great neighborhoods. Adopt policies that will create beautiful, interesting, and safe neighborhoods. Think about aesthetics, design, and outdoor space. Great neighborhoods need to give children access to the outside, as childhood has moved inside. Kids play, grow, and learn in nature, so make sure your city’s youngest residents have plenty of parks to explore.

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