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A group of newly elected mayors recently gathered at the White House to talk with administration officials about the concerns and challenges facing small to mid-size cities in several critical areas of the country. The Biden Administration welcomed the group of newly elected mayors to speak with administration officials about the pressing needs facing their respective communities. 

The new class of mayors included North Las Vegas Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown, the first Black mayor in Nevada’s history. Goynes-Brown told NewsOne that her top priorities were public safety, education and her city’s continued economic recovery. Referencing an economic downturn that impacted the city over a decade earlier, the newly elected mayor noted it was still a work in progress. 

“We’ve been treading water and getting back on our feet,” Goynes-Brown said. “We’ve gone from junk bond rating status to A-plus bond status.”

Goynes-Brown previously served as the city’s mayor pro tempore. She also stressed the importance of affordable housing and strengthening partnerships between leaders and different levels of government. 

“Affordable housing is probably on every mayor and every state blueprint,” Goynes–Brown said. “Also, just with infrastructure, and how we can build those conversations and relationships with our federal delegation so that when it does come down to our state, we have a blueprint laid out as to what we want that to look like.” 

Second-tier cities play a vital role in our nation

As the incoming mayor of Augusta, Georgia, Garnett Johnson, shared that it was important to include other municipal leaders in these national convenings aside from the major metropolitan areas people usually have at the table. 

“Augusta provides world-class technology as it relates to our cybersecurity, not only of this nation but of our state,” Johnson explained. “We’re very vital in the education of our physicians in the state. We have the state’s only state-run medical school with the Medical College of Georgia.

He said he appreciated the Biden Administration for including Augusta in the conversation. Johnson also noted interest in seeing the infrastructure bill be put to good use in his community and finding ways to increase affordable housing.  

“In Augusta, probably similar to any other community, we have a lot of infrastructure issues,” he said. “We have this great river that is an economic driver to our region…I want to see how through the infrastructure bill, we could get some funding to maintain that economic driver. We have some serious housing issues in affordable housing, especially in the urban core; I want to make sure that people who want to live in a downtown urban core can do so affordably.”

Mayors should be bridge builders

Newport News Mayor-elect Phillip Jones rounded out the conversation with NewsOne, noting that his role as mayor was being a “bridge builder.” 

“You should be able to link up your news to state and federal-level resources. This is, I believe, the first time that Newport News has been represented at the White House.” 

A proponent of economic justice, Jones said his top priority conversation was to talk with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg about infrastructure. He said the administration’s reconnecting communities grant could provide needed resources to disenfranchised communities harmed by highway construction, such as the southeast community in Newport News.

“In my mind, infrastructure through that grant to include rapid bus transit is going to be the way that you can have individuals have economic justice, and have more flexibility and connected to high paying jobs,” Jones said. He also touted Newport News’ prowess and military might. “The White House takes notice of Newport News because we build aircraft carriers, and we build about 30% of all submarines in the Navy. We build the world’s greatest ships.”

Jones stressed that even at the local level, it’s a team effort, with the mayor and city council working together to get things done for the communities they serve.

 The trio was among 13 newly elected mayors invited to the convening hosted by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, led by Julie Chavez Rodriguez. Other administration attendees included Secretary of HUD Marcia Fudge, Mayors in attendance received a surprise visit from President Biden himself.  

“Secretary Fudge has visited North Las Vegas to see firsthand the need,” Goynes-Brown said. “To have her come and visit and walk several areas of the city. To actually have her see it. To me, that’s pretty powerful because now she can come back and say, ‘this is what’s going on in North Las Vegas.’”


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