Why Cities Work Even When Washington Doesn’t

The case for strong mayors


Burlington, Vermont (pictured here) and Greenville, South Carolina are profiled in this month’s Atlantic for their innovative mayors.

This month, The Atlantic profiles two inspiring examples of intersector collaboration in municipal government. In Greenville, South Carolina and Burlington, Vermont, two motivated mayors worked across industries and sectors to revitalize their cities.

Superficially, Greenville and Burlington have little in common. The former is a staunchly conservative industrial hub; the latter a paragon of liberal eco-business. But under the stewardship of young mayors willing to challenge traditional government roles, both cities have flourished economically and culturally.

In Greenville, the mid-90’s exodus of several large textile plants left the city with high unemployment and low self-esteem. But the city responded quickly, enticing other industries to relocate to the town with financial and social incentives. Burlington, in contrast, has taken the track of “social responsibility,” building businesses around efforts like sustainability to attract both investors and civically-minded residents. The city has also actively supported entrepreneurs, who bring start-up funds, employment opportunities, and enthusiasm.

As the Atlantic article points out, city-wide intersector collaboration is nothing new, but each city that embraces the opportunity of the intersector expands possibilities for how differing parties can partner to help their community.