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Small town mayor tackles national issues on Lobby Day.

Unlike some mayors, Donald Menard of Cankton, La., knows every one of his constituents.

When asked about his town of 385 residents about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge--in the heart of Cajun Country as Menard likes to say--he jokingly says, "I am fortunate that most of my citizens are related, either on my side or my wife's side. That way, no one is unhappy when I make a decision. It's one of the perks; no political collateral."

But in our ever changing world, at a time when every city faces the threat of terrorism and when every city and state is in the midst of the most severe budget deficits in 10 years, Menard shares many of the same problems as his counterparts in the nation's largest cities, And, he shares a resource that many cities are thankful to have, membership in the National League of Cities.

"Even though I am a part-time mayor, I have the same responsibilities as the mayor of Washington, D.C.," said Menard. "I may serve less people than the mayor of Washington, but we both affect people's lives with our decisions,

"With all that is going on today with homeland security, economic stimulus ... it affects my citizens the same way it affects other cities. And that's why NLC membership is so important to Cankton, and to me. I like to call NLC Cankton's lobbying firm because of all the great work they do for cities," said Menard.

NLC is the nation's oldest and largest municipal advocacy group. Though the majority of NLC's members range in size from 10,000 to 100,000 population, the league serves all members equally.

"The active involvement of city officials from Menard, La. to Los Angeles, Calif., at the Congressional City Conference demonstrates both the strength of NLC as a lobbying organization and the value of NLC membership to cities and towns of all sizes," NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut said. "Every voice that went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday representing America's cities and towns was an important voice. And, I know that the Congressional leaders we met with on Tuesday were impressed with the diversity of our strike teams and the consistency of our message regardless of size of city."

Menard was recently in Washington, D.C., to participate in NLC's annual Congressional City Conference, which ended Tuesday, March 11, with City Lobby Day.

About 2,500 city officials from across the United States attended the conference. Of those, about 1,000 met with their House and Senate representatives to push for NLC's six legislative priorities--homeland security, economic stimulus, affordable housing, transportation (TEA 21), clean air and the No Child Left Behind Act.

For his part, Menard--who is vice president of the Louisiana Municipal League--joined NLC President John DeStefano, mayor of New Haven, Conn., and NLC Executive Director Don Borut at a meeting with Louisiana Sen. John Breaux's staff to discuss these issues.

"I have been attending this particular conference for quite a few years, but this is the first time I experienced being a part of NLC. Whether you're a city of 8 million or a city of 385, NLC works for you and looks out for your interests. I am honored that a city of our size can belong to such an organization," said Menard. "I was very honored to be there with Mayor DeStefano and NLC's executive director, on equal footing, discussing issues that are affecting every city in the nation."

Officials from other cities echoed Menard's opinion of NLC membership.

* "Being a member means that our voice is heard in Washington, D.C," said George E. McCall Jr., council vice president of Pritchard, Ala.

* "Coming to NLC's conferences provides me with an opportunity to build fellowship with people of different backgrounds and from different regions. I leave with new ideas that I can take back to my community," said John Brady, Mankato, Minn., councilmember.

* "NLC gives you the opportunity to belong to something bigger than your community, to learn about the challenges facing small and large cities, and a chance to overcome those challenges," said Johnnie Warren, council president of Oakwood Village, Ohio.

* "Why start a program from scratch when you can talk to officials from other cities who have already implemented a program that your community is interested in," said Evelyn Turner Pugh, Columbus, Ga., councilmember.
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Author:Davis, Lance
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Mar 17, 2003
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