SPRINGDALE -- Mayor Doug Sprouse has taken on a new set of duties with the National League of Cities he hopes will benefit his home city and state.
Sprouse was selected to be a member of the board of directors of the National League of Cities at the organization's annual City Summit the week of Nov. 18 in Atlanta.
"I didn't take this on because I need or want anything more on my plate," Sprouse said. "I think the National League of Cities is very important in advocating for and maintaining the kind of strong, independent local government that I believe we all want."
Sprouse, 67, was elected Springdale mayor in 2008. He will begin serving a two-year term on the board in January. He said he was asked to consider serving and agreed to apply. After making a three-minute presentation to a screening committee, Sprouse was chosen to serve on the board.
The board focuses on three broad roles: fiduciary oversight, strategic planning and thinking and implementation of policies and activities to support and advance the league's mission and aspirations, according to Bryan Griffith, director for member services and engagement with the league.
Griffith said the national organization, which marks its 100th anniversary next year, represents more than 2,700 cities and towns of all sizes at the national level, proposing legislation to benefit members and lobbying on their behalf.
Griffith, who grew up in Bryant and worked for former Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, said municipal governments share many common goals and confront similar problems. In additional to representing those cities on the national political level, the organization serves as a clearinghouse for information and a networking system for local officials to connect with others and discuss their mutual concerns.
"We represent everyone, I always say, from Rison to New York City," Griffith said. "We work hand-in-hand with our towns and cities and with state municipal leagues. We believe local government is the most trusted level of government and has the most direct interaction with the folks they serve."
Stodola was mayor of Little Rock from 2007 to 2018. He served as president of the board of directors for the National League of Cities from November 2017 to November 2018 and was a member of the board beginning in 2015. The group is an effective advocate for local government and a very useful resource, he said.
"The league helped the city of Little Rock tremendously," Stodola said. "It gives you an opportunity to share your ideas with other people who are in similar situations. It's not unusual at all for a city to take the idea of another city and say, 'We're going to try that.' It was very helpful to us in our work on the Renaissance of Main Street. It even helped us get $2.5 million from the EPA to help with some water quality issues."
Stodola said the exchange of ideas can help a city deal with a range of problems. He cited the issues of homelessness and said Little Rock borrowed from other cities that had dealt with the issue in developing a homeless center with a medical clinic.
"Exchanging ideas can be very helpful," he said. "You're not living in a cocoon."
Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan has worked with the National League of Cities and served on the group's Human Development Committee.
"At NLC, we are able to participate in various committees to amplify the voices of all municipalities and help sort through best practices in a number of key policy development areas," Jordan said about his experience with the group. "As mayor, I have participated on the Human Development Committee for approximately three years and we have developed resolutions and policy statements on matters such as racism as a public health crisis and Juneteenth. My chief of staff has been a member of [the league's] Information Technology and Communications committee that does a good deal of work on broadband and digital equity strategies for reaching all residents."
Mark Hayes, executive director for the Arkansas Municipal League, also serves on the board of the national group. Hayes said Sprouse should be an effective voice in representing the interests of Springdale and other cities.
"I'm very excited," Hayes said. "Mayor Sprouse has been an exemplary leader. He has really shaped Springdale during a time of tremendous growth and challenges."
Hayes said municipal government is the most functional level of government and is, and should be, nonpartisan with a focus on providing essential services.
"Cities and towns are the form of government that touches the lives of people on a daily basis," he said. "In Arkansas, city officials are nonpartisan for the most part. I always say you don't have to be somebody with a 'D' or an 'R' after your name to fix a pothole."
National League of Cities
Ten state leagues came together at the University of Kansas in 1924 to create a new national organization to serve as a clearinghouse for information about municipal government. The National League of Cities, now based in Washington, has grown in size and influence, serving as a trusted resource for mayors, city council members and municipal government staff.
Source: National League of Cities