The Blog

July Changemaker — Valerie Patton, Senior VP, Inclusion and Talent Attraction; Executive Director, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative

July Changemaker — Valerie Patton, Senior VP, Inclusion and Talent Attraction; Executive Director, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative

Valerie Patton – Senior Vice President-Inclusion and Talent Attraction and Executive Director, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative //

How can other cities develop a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workforce?
The question today is really more about inclusion and equity. We really have to be intentional about who we are hiring, who we are in community with, and who is being provided services. The discussion becomes then, do you have all people represented (or a sub set of people) at the table? Then, you need to think about the equity piece. For example, if one part of the city is getting one service and the other part of the city is getting the same service at a lower level, there is a problem. Equity goes from the boardroom to the playground. What kind of environment do you really want to create at the end of the day? By having diversity, inclusion and equity, you’re having different thoughts, time, talent, treasures, and people, which all gets integrated together for a richer more prosperous experience for all. As CEOs for Cities [Clusters] look at communities, we have to figure out how we make these communities better places to live or play in. If you don’t see yourself or an experience within that, then things will always be the same and things won’t change. If you are open to change, you must be open to the possibilities. 

What inspires you the most?
I have 2 daily mantras I like to use:

  1. Everyday I want to lead, serve and make a difference
  2. Everyday I want to help people have a better life through transformation and change

Everyone influences and inspires me, especially the community where I serve, the community where I work, and the community where I play. As I look in community, every community has disparities, but how do we work together to produce solutions? I want to be the difference. I come from helpers and activism; I have always wanted to see things become better. It is also all of those who have gone before me who inspire me to be my best and do my best everyday. It was my grandparents and parents and the larger community that inspired me; I am my brothers’ and my sisters’ keeper.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 opportunities facing your city today? 

  1. The fist opportunity is in the area of inclusion and talent attraction. There is an opportunity to showcase this in St. Louis. There is an opportunity to engage, not just retain students, but engage and attract talent back to the area. We have an opportunity to bring people back and keep the talent we are training in colleges and universities. About 4 years ago when Ferguson put us in the national spotlight, it was not in a positive light. We are taking the opportunity to take a negative and move it to a positive. But, but once people get here they see past that, they can see there is an opportunity here.
  2. Secondly, we have an opportunity within education. Our Chamber wants to be a top 10 city by 2025 and education is a very large piece to accomplish this. Education is bigger than just a college degree; we need to provided opportunities for people to get educated and become employed. Whatever form education takes to do this, we have an opportunity to train and provide apprenticeships, to formal classroom training. Education is key and knowledge is power. What you have in your mind is yours and no one can take it away from you.
  3. We also have opportunity for business growth in the start up arena and middle business sector. We want people to think of St. Louis as a start up community and this will spur innovation around new product development.

What are one or two projects you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
I love my work and I am excited about all of it!

The first thing I am really excited about is the work we are doing around our regional college festival, which will introduce students to St. Louis before they make post-graduation decisions. Last year we did a college festival, but now we are partnering with LouFest (Snoop Dogg will be performing this year!). We will host the college fair and then the next two days will be all about music and a time to showcase companies and businesses, other entertainment and the food of St. Louis. We have a great partnership and we are looking forward to the event!

The second thing I am very excited about is our fellows program, which is a year long, multicultural leadership development program for mid-career professionals. We focus on relationship building (or community building), professional development, and civic engagement and service. We are in our 12th year and have over 600 alumni. From our 600 alumni, 92% live and work in the region, 26% have their own boards and 70% have been promoted or have had an increase in responsibility within 2 years of graduating from the program. I am so proud of this work because of THEIR accomplishments and so many have already made an impact.

I am also working on an initiative called the Global Leadership Forum. The goal is to create a space that connects multicultural STEM organizations. We want the best and brightest in the field, but we also want to support them, promote them and engage with them. We have also created a specialize curriculum for an integrated high school, where 100% of students are going to college or have job opportunities.

What is your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
Be true to you. Truth is power and be the best you can be. Find something you have abundant passion for and pursue it with all your might. You don’t have to do everything. But whatever you do decide to do, do it well.

Could you tell us something about yourself that most of your colleagues don’t know about you?
I am an off chart introvert and I work like an extrovert. (Everyone is always surprised by this!) I like people, but people can also be draining. My passion calls me to be “forward in my thoughts and actions” and I have to be out, meaning if you want to see the change, you have to create change, the change you want to see. Also, I like to refer to my family as the “United Nations” because there is a little bit of everyone represented. I have cousins who have married people from Ghana, Cambodia, Mexico… it’s a great mix because we are all family and all get along but we also learn so much about culture!

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June Changemaker — Wellington (Duke) Reiter, FAIA

June Changemaker — Wellington (Duke) Reiter, FAIA

Wellington (Duke) Reiter, FAIA, Senior Advisor to the President, ASU; Executive Director, University City Exchange, ASU // 

Phoenix is hosting the 2017 National Meeting. What can attendees look forward to?
First of all, thanks for inviting me to offer a few thoughts.  We are delighted to be hosting the CEOs for Cities National Meeting and we believe you are coming at a pivotal moment.

Phoenix is a place still very much in a state of becoming, and a living laboratory for experimentation, reinvention, and continuous change.  While we will certainly showcase many site-specific projects, we hope also to present a program dedicated to the macro forces that are shaping not only our home but the country as a whole.  There is probably no better location for such a dialogue and this is why we intend to frame the event around the idea that “Everything Will Be Different.”

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May Changemaker — Wim Wiewel

May Changemaker — Wim Wiewel

Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State // 

What inspires you?
I’m a city boy.   I’ve always focused on how to make cities economically strong, culturally vibrant, and socially just.  Urban universities are in a great position to contribute to these goals, and I’ve been fortunate to work on this for the past 38 years.

How do you foresee higher education further developing and driving city success?
People’s need for higher education continues to increase as technology develops and the world becomes ever more competitive.  Therefore, both the education and the research provided by colleges and universities will be ever more important.  Urban universities that partner with their cities—business, government, and nonprofits—will make the greatest contributions, and will thrive through partnerships.

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The Million Dollar Question: How Can We Turn Everyday Spaces Into PLAYces?

The Million Dollar Question: How Can We Turn Everyday Spaces Into PLAYces?

by Priya Madrecki, Senior Manager, Strategic Communications, KaBOOM! //

Oftentimes the most poignant childhood memories are the simplest ones: playing in the backyard with a sibling, learning baseball with a parent, or going to the playground after school. And, frequently, those memories involve play. Play is a critical component to healthy development, and to simply being a kid. It sets the stage for helping kids to achieve their highest potential, and provides those essential, formative moments with friends and adults. It cultivates social skills, greater self-confidence, risk-taking opportunities and the chance to live a healthier lifestyle. Today’s kids deserve each and every one of those benefits linked to play. But for many kids, particularly those living in poverty, having time and access to daily play is a challenge. So how do we provide more opportunities for play by turning everyday spaces into PLAYces?

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April Changemaker — Brian Stephens

April Changemaker — Brian Stephens

by Brian Stephens, CEO + Co-Founder, CAISSA Public Strategy //

What inspires you?
I get passionate about my city and people getting excited about Memphis and fighting for it. From the business perspective, our company’s primary objective is to help move opinion. We work on visibility for clients and to improve reputation. We work to make things better and help people think differently and more positively. This is translated into the Memphis Cluster because in our city we have a deficit mindset. Leadership Memphis along with the Memphis Cluster are working to get people to have a positive opinion.

How do you use your background in business, industrial psychology, law and military science to help inform the work you are involved in and improve your city?
The movement of opinion is how we do things, get people to think differently, and get rid of biases, which is more psychology based. With a law and military background, strategy is vital. Also, what has helped teach me are my failures. I have had massive and epic failures and it was these failures that helped me learn! I am better able to break down the silos in the community and now am working to get the right people talking to each other.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today?
I am going to change that – let’s talk about the top 3 opportunities… We all have the same problems in our cities, but here are opportunities Memphis has. First, we have a lower cost of living, which makes us attractive to businesses. Second, the people here are so real and polite in a way that is not fake. We are from the south, so of course we are polite, but we are down to earth. Third, we are one of the most generous and giving cities. When we look at what cities donate the most per capita, we are always in the Top 5. All of these opportunities can be leveraged.

What are one or two projects you are currently working that you are most excited about?
Leadership Memphis is a hub for our CEOs for Cities Cluster. They are taking on unbelievably difficult situations and helping to improve the city. Leadership Memphis is working on getting more volunteers in the city, helping more students get to college and helping others get back to college. Also, Leadership Memphis is currently working to train and teach people about what is going on in Memphis.

What’s your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
There are two parts to this…

First, care about something! You don’t have to care about everything, but whatever you feel passionate about, get to work on it and don’t quit. Even after you get movement and energy, don’t quit and then keep moving to work on something else. People check out and get frustrated, but you can make a difference and we need people who won’t give up.

Second, there are always going to be dragons and trolls. Dragons are the ones who fly and burn everything down and when you try to rebuild, they are not around. Trolls are the people who nitpick and complain about everything. They constantly tear apart good ideas and have a problem with everything but don’t help find solutions. You have to shut down the dragons and trolls in the world, or else they will take over. You can’t have people who just complain. People need to fight the dragons and trolls everyday and push back!

What should we know about your work that you haven’t yet mentioned because I didn’t ask the right question?
The Memphis Cluster is working diligently on making sure we pass along all the great info we learned to whoever needs it. We make a cognitive effort to inform others. For example, if we learned about planning, but not everyone could attend, we make sure to share the information so they can still learn about the topic and then, we start connecting additional people. This helps us create a “micro cluster” or a web of people in the community. We are hoping to push this effort more and use this web to navigate change.

March Changemaker — Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson

March Changemaker — Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Ohio // 

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the future and work at making each tomorrow better than today.

What do you see as the greatest strengths and challenges of Toledo, Ohio?
The citizens of Toledo are our greatest strength. They are hardworking, resilient, and compassionate.  One of our greatest challenges is filling the funding gap left by multi-million dollar reductions in revenue sharing from the state and federal government.  The loss of these dollars has put pressure on our ability to provide higher levels of public service for our citizens.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today? 

  1. Protecting Our Water
  2. Maintaining Clean, Safe, Livable Neighborhoods
  3. Supporting Economic Development for Job Growth

What are one or two projects on which you are currently working that you are most excited?
We have really turned the corner with being able to capture, manage, assign work, and communicate back to citizens regarding their requests for city services through the Engage Toledo program.  We generated more than 47,000 work orders through Engage Toledo in 2016 in response to our citizens.

The Toledo Youth Commission has developed an interactive map of resources which uses technology to help connect and engage our youth and their parents with resources throughout the city.  Communicating so many positive choices for youth in the arts, sports, health, recreation and transportation will have long-term favorable impact in our community.

What’s your advice for the next generation of city changemakers?
I’m a fan of Dr. Suess, who wrote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  Celebrate your differences. It is our differences that lead to innovative thinking and collaborative success.

What should we know about the work that you haven’t yet mentioned because I didn’t ask the right question?
I think about the long-term impact that every decision I make, partnership I form, and agreement I enter into will have on the citizens I was elected to serve.  I care about Toledo’s legacy and the effect my work will have on our children and grandchildren and so work hard to uphold a high standard of conduct befitting the City and the Office of the Mayor.

Finally, could you tell us something about yourself than most of your colleagues don’t know about you?
By now many have heard that I play the piano; however, they do not know that I am also a singer and when I retire I want to become a baby holder at the local hospital.

Cities That Listen

Cities That Listen

by Lee Fisher, Senior Advisor to CEOs for Cities // 

“There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong.”
– Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”

 As we reflect on the recent presidential election and a new President, many enter this new year with mixed feelings of hope and anxiety. I want to share some thoughts about where we go from here.

Most of us live in a bubble. We engage in what is called “confirmation bias.” That is, we search for or interpret information in a way that confirms our own preconceptions. We actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms our views, and ignore or under weigh evidence that contradicts our views. This tendency to look for people and information that confirm our own views has been accelerated and enhanced by Google, Facebook, and other internet platforms who use the personal data they collect about us to tailor our online experiences.

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Biodiversity and Public Health

Biodiversity and Public Health

by Grace Cameron, Research Assistant, Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, CEOs for Cities //

Why we need biodiversity for more reasons than just beauty

Photo from Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BNhBrBWBv9o/As an environmental studies major, I am always looking for ways to connect the social to the scientific. Environmental studies is a broader version of environmental science, because it also includes elements of humanities, law, policies, and social science. In addition to appealing to my inner climate warrior, the study of the environment allows me to make those crafty social-scientific connections.

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February Change Maker — Ginny Seyferth

February Change Maker — Ginny Seyferth

How did you get involved in public relations? 
I started in Public Relations after college at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, moved to the oil industry with Amoco, then joined Amway Corporation’s media relations team before I opened my own firm 32 years ago. Today, our  firm is well recognized for our client support to manage issues, brand awareness and new product launches and we have a unique practice working with many Michigan companies on talent recruitment and retention. This is our work that ties to working with our City branding, and helping the City understand the attributes of a great brand.

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January Change Maker: Javier A. Soto

January Change Maker: Javier A. Soto

Javier A. Soto, President & CEO, The Miami Foundation // 

What do you see as the greatest policy issues that Miami must address in 2017?
In 2017, significant attention will be paid to transit issues. Explosive growth has impacted the ability to move in the city.

Equally important, but a longer-term issue that Miami is facing is the effect of sea level rise. We have already begun to see issues with this along the coast. We will need massive infrastructure changes in order to address the impact of climate change on the city.

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