Government as a solutions provider with Clarence Anthony (S3E20)

Clarence Anthony is the director and CEO of the National League of Cities and he stopped in for a conversation on how his organization helps cities improve across the nation. He calls government a “solutions provider,” hear how he explains that on this episode.

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Clarence Anthony: We provide solutions to cities, towns and villages. People do respect that level of government. It’s the most trusted level of government and they feel as if you can solve all of their issues. We could define good government in so many other ways. But I think that for me, it’s transparency. It’s engagement is thoughtful. It took me 40 years to become authentic about where I grew up and my life experience and being a black man in this kind of role.

It took me a while to own it, but now that I do, I own it every day.

David Martin: Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. On this episode of The Good Government Show. I’m about to have a conversation with the director and CEO of the National League of Cities. This is an organization that helps spread effective and good government practices to all cities and towns across America. With some 2700 members, the organization helps to advocate for city government and helps improve government.

Leaders of cities of all sizes. And on this episode, we got the boss, the CEO and director of the National League of Cities, Clarence Anthony. Before heading up this organization, Clarence was the mayor of South Bay, Florida. And this is a small rural city in the middle of the state on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. And we talked about his time as mayor there.

He was elected at the age of 24 and served as mayor there for 24 years. So he’s got a lot to talk about as mayor. He was a National League of Cities member and then became president for one year in 1999. By the way, his son, Anthony, all-American wide receiver at the University of Florida and played five years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tough to take with you at Florida State anyway. Most importantly, Clarence is the host of City Speak, and that’s the National League of Cities podcast. On his podcast, he talks with city leaders and policy leaders, all talking about how city government works towards good government. And that makes us here at the good government show already fans of city speak.

Check it out sometime. So let’s listen to my podcast and my guest Clarence Anthony. And this is my conversation with him on The Good Government Show. And I’ll have that right after this. The good government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties. County Government is actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly.

Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the USA. NACO helps county government work better together through things like sharing best practices. Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. And today I have Clarence Anthony with me, the president of the National League of Cities and a fellow podcaster. Welcome to the show.

Clarence Anthony: Well, thank you very much, David. I really appreciate this opportunity to be on this show, because that’s what we work for. As a Florida country boy, I’d say good government.

David Martin: Good government.

Clarence Anthony: Excited about talking with you about what we’re doing at the National League of Cities.

David Martin: Well, that’s great, because we are certainly all about talking to folks who are either creating good government projects or are or pushing forward good government ideas. So let’s let’s start in a little bit and talk about your role as CEO and director of the National League of Cities.

Clarence Anthony: I’m a new mayor. I have just joined. I’ve just been elected. So me on the National League of Cities.

Well, you know, we are the organization, the oldest municipal organization that represents cities, towns and villages. In 2024, we will be 100 years young or old as an organization that has really had amazing impact on America as a whole. What we do here first, we advocate relentlessly on behalf of the interest of cities, towns and villages. And when people ask me, you know, what do I do?

And that’s the bottom line. I am considered the voice in AOC is considered the voice of cities, towns and villages. In that role, what we do is we try as much as we can influence federal policy, strengthen local leadership to be able to advocate on behalf of cities. And I also often say we provide solutions to cities, towns and villages so that when they are dealing with an issue, they come to the National League of Cities and they learn about what is happening, not just in their state where they exist, you know, they are incorporated, but from city leaders all over America.

I, I could think back when I ran for public office, you know, graduated from Florida, Atlantic University, master’s degree, thought I knew everything about local leadership and policy issues. And then I got involved in the Florida League of Cities and the National League of Cities. And that’s when I really learned and what I found and is still here.

We provide technical assistance to help. I would say capacity building of our staff as well as the leaders that lead those communities. And I think that that’s key because sometimes you don’t have the skills at home or you don’t know what’s happening again in other communities. So we come in and help you to be able to deal with those solutions.

We also, I would say not only talk about today’s best practices, but I call it the next practices. You know, right now we’re talking about data and the use of data, right. But, you know, artificial intelligence, what role will that play in in the.

David Martin: That’s the question everyone’s trying to sort out now, right?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. So I think if I had to tell any leader that’s elected a new mayor or council member, why join the National League of Cities? In summary, I would say if you really want to serve your community and resolve the issues that you are facing, this is the place to get what you need to be a better public servant.

And if you want to help advocate on behalf of cities with leaders from all over the country, the National League of Cities needs your help in Washington, D.C. to do that.

David Martin: When you were Mayor Place sorry, when you were mayor of South Bay, Florida, which is Central Florida, South Central, sort of sort of Lake Okeechobee Arab region. How much did you rely on the National League of Cities for consulting, for advice, for support, for just outreach, just another mayor to talk to?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, I relied upon them a lot because my journey, again, was a young mayor, ran on crime and then a city manager. Once we dealt with that, he found me and said, Hey, Mayor, we need to sit down and talk about the Avila room tax rate or the rollback rate. Are we going to.

David Martin: Be call the friend and said, What’s this?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. And I said, Huh, What is that? I ran to address crime. So that’s when I went to the Florida League of Cities and got involved and then got involved at the national level and became president of the National League of Cities. So my relationship with the National League of Cities has been one of as an elected member.

But also now as a staffer. And it really gives me a broad perspective on the impact that we can have on communities and our role in assisting leaders who get elected and provide them with the skills and solutions.

David Martin: Because so.

Clarence Anthony: Let’s.

David Martin: Play through this scenario with me. I would imagine that most mayors are very busy on the day to day and don’t have the time or the the bandwidth to, you know, do a lot of real forward thinking, you know, 1 to 3 years down the road. Is this where National League cities can step in and help them with that?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, What we do in that.

David Martin: Regard, is that fair? I mean.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, it really gets to that next practice, if you will, because our leaders are dealing day to day with the issues of the day and within their community and they may not have time to think about what is company coming throughout the next two or three years. But that’s what our research does and that’s what our conferences do.

We convene, we talk about those issues. Our research department is talking about the future issues. So I travel a lot and I start looking at the newspapers and I started seeing eight years ago this pen, not the pandemic, but this epidemic on, I would say, opioids. And I came back to the office and I said, something is starting to happen in Northeast, Midwest, rural communities.

And lo and behold, we started doing research and we started providing this information to our local leaders to say, you need to pay attention to this because it’s coming. And here are some of the things you can do to help define whether you have this challenge in your community or not. The same thing is happening would fit, you know.

Clarence Anthony: So we try to help our leaders because we know that day to day they’re dealing with the basic bottom line issues that may be impacting their communities.

David Martin: And how effective is it to share best practices?

Clarence Anthony: You know, I it’s very important and it’s the way in which is shared. And what I mean by that is you could be a large city, mid midsize city or just a rural small community and you may have a housing issue. It’s the same in each community, but it’s the magnitude. So when you come to our convenings, you have small cities talking about housing, quality of housing, access to housing.

Then you may go into a mid-sized community and it starts to get, you know, how are we planning for growth and development within?

David Martin: Yeah, but the mayor of.

Clarence Anthony: The larger cities are talking about access to housing supply of housing. It’s still the same issue. But when you come to, you know, see, we open the door for sharing.

David Martin: Yeah, that’s what was going to say, as is the mayor of Belle Glade Rural City in Florida. Their housing issues are vastly different than the mayor of Detroit or Chicago. Right. So how how does it help?

Clarence Anthony: Well, it helps because you again identify mayors in two extremes.

David Martin: Certainly.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, it’s two extremes, but there are many bell Glades throughout America in rural and rural Virginia, in rural New York. Mm hmm. It’s the same issue. The diversity of their population. The industry may be different, but the issue is the same. It oftentimes deals with in those rural communities the quality of the housing, because you can have housing in some of the rural communities throughout America.

No matter where they are. And the quality of the housing is similar. The ability to attract a diversity of housing, not just small housing, you know, you may want larger communities, higher cost communities to be developed in that community, whereas in Washington, D.C., where I work, I would tell you we’re looking for affordability. We’re looking for for the supply of housing, because things are so hard, it’s so hard to get a house.

But we can set the table for Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, the top cities to be able to have a conversation of how they deal with that issue. And we can also set the table for the South Bay’s and the Belle Glade that have a different issue, a different size community. But housing is still a challenge in that community.

David Martin: So I live in New York City and they say that being mayor of New York City is the second hardest job in politics after president is being as small as being a big city mayor. That hard is is it truly one of the hardest jobs in politics?

Clarence Anthony: I think when I have interviewed and talked to leaders that were mayors of and they became a congressional member, they often say the best job I had was being a mayor. I speak to congressional members.

David Martin: Yes.

Clarence Anthony: That then go back home to run for mayor and say it was the best it is the best job because y you can see the changes almost within six months on a decision that you’ve made. You could see the impact of your decision making probably a lot quicker. So the reward for doing great things is just so much quicker and visible to be able to pay for a road and rural South Bay and Belle Glade that you’ve been working on for a year and go to work and then you come home and you drive down that same road, you’re like, Aha, all right, you know that first Street is now done and the residents, good

and bad, they have access to you. They thank you or they challenge you. So it is more rewarding to be able to be home and to be able to see your work and your reward for your work and your commitment.

David Martin: I was talking with Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who’s also the president of the National League of Cities, and she said, which is a supermarket. People stop here all the time like you’re at the grocery store. Yes, I am. And I have to go home and do the dishwasher. But she said, you know, it takes her forever to get out of the store and, you know, pumping gas, it takes her forever to get to the gas station.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, that’s a true story because I will tell you, when I was in mayor, when I was mayor, my wife sometimes would want me to go on errands and would say, no, I got it.

David Martin: Because.

Clarence Anthony: It will not get back on time because people do respect that level of government. Yeah, it’s the most trusted level of government and they feel as if you can solve all of their issues, whether it’s education, whether it is, you know, school systems and how you integrate school systems within your your community transportation, whether it’s the turnpike or it’s I-95.

They think you can solve all of those issues. And guess what? You know, you have to be at the table. You have to insist that you be at the table to talk about those issues. But you don’t have responsibility for most cities, obviously, but they feel like you do.

David Martin: I was talking with the county commissioner. He says his wife will not allow him to go to the hardware store on the weekend. So she’s like, no, you can’t do it. And you turn a 15 minute errand into a three hour, you know, job. And we’re not doing that anymore. So tell me a little bit about your podcast, brother podcaster.

Why did you get one started? I’ve listened to one or two of them. Not all of them, I must confess. How did you. How did it come together? And what’s the goal of your podcast?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. First of all, what’s your critique of my podcast, David? How did you enjoy what I did?

David Martin: I listen to what I listen to for all the way through and was interested. Really interested in was the mayor of Oakland. Just a fascinating story. And wow, I can’t wait to talk to her. So, no, it was interesting in what you were doing and what you were you were sort of getting their story out, which I thought was great.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. City Speak with Clarence Anthony is our podcast that the National League of Cities and the goal of creating the podcast was to really tell the stories of cities, towns and villages all over America and how they are dealing with tough issues. Maybe a new idea that we wanted to share with our subscribers and listeners. But most of all, it’s to put a face on local government.

Okay, it is. Have our guests to tell their story about their journey of why they got into public service. And it’s so amazing. Every story is different. It could have been they were they had an issue that nobody wanted to address and solve. So they felt like if they ran, they could do that. They felt like their community was it represented their neighborhood wasn’t represented, but their journey ultimately began around an idea and ultimately, I would say not ended, but continued by becoming a public servant, serving and understanding that is more than one issue.

It’s a bigger community, and they had to come up with different strategies to address those issues. So I think I would say we really are the voice of cities, the podcast, the voice of cities and others that impact local leaders and local government. And so we’ve been excited about the fact that, you know, Mitch Landrieu is reports directly to the president.

United States was our first guest and really talked about, you know, infrastructure and the importance of of infrastructure. And we’ve had other mayors that have talked mayor or to was.

David Martin: Right that was I doubt sounded like it was at a symposium.

Clarence Anthony: On our podcast before she appeared on yours. Yes.

David Martin: Yeah, she did.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. But we’ve had some great guests and I’m so proud of the work of our staff. Katie and John and the team here in O.C. really helps to talk through who we have on our podcast. So we excited one day that maybe we’ll have you and I can turn the tables.

David Martin: Well, thank you. I would be. I would be happy to be a guest on your show, which is easier being a guest to be the host.

Clarence Anthony: I think the guest, believe it or not. All right. I believe being the guest because I get a chance to just talk about and get my point across about what I want to share with you. As you know, and you’re sitting on the other end today trying to make sure you guide me and.

David Martin: Gets what you need.

Clarence Anthony: So, you know, I think it’s easier being on your podcast than me interviewing you. What do you think, though?

David Martin: I am much more comfortable asking the questions that answer the questions. I’ve just been really I’ve been a reporter and a producer my whole life, said I started radio, so I’m much better, you know, on this side of the camera, as it were, as is the other side. So yeah, you’ve.

Clarence Anthony: Got a great voice.

David Martin: You’ve got a great Thank you. And in so doing, I did a little research on you and I wanted to ask you about Anthony Government Solutions, which seems to be played right into the hand of good government. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what you were able to accomplish?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. After I retired from office, I served in public life for 24 years. Started at the age of 24 and ended at the age of 48.

David Martin: Okay.

Clarence Anthony: And so I wanted to do something that could bring my public experience and my private sector experience together. And I provided consulting services and training to local government, you know, around community engagement, connecting to diverse communities, land use issues. Because my graduate degree was in is in urban planning from Florida Atlantic University, Go Owls. And then I also represented private sector clients to help them to understand how to work with the local government.

I can tell you I enjoyed it. I was very successful. But when I got the call from the headhunter about this role, this makes me very full, okay? It makes me feel as a professional. And in my life I feel like I still can engage in public policy and have an impact. But I can also make a good living as well.

David Martin: Can you give me a couple of quick examples of some government solutions you’re able to provide or help with get started?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, I think on that I love.

David Martin: Hearing about good government.

Clarence Anthony: Good government. First of all, I think good government is where you are able to develop good public policy that’s inclusive of the community that you represent, the entire community. You’re engaging them not at the end of the process, but you’re engaging them at the beginning.

David Martin: And we’re going to we’re going to get to all of that. I was just wondering if you had one or two examples of what you were able to provide through the year. Anthony Government solutions.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, I think that’s what I was able to provide. I basically help help local leaders to be able to set the table to bring all kinds of people to the table and to come up with solutions. And those solutions needed to have a financing mechanism. So good government involves all of those things and coming to implementable outcomes.

David Martin: All right. Well, now I have our good government show questionnaire. We are going to get to the heart of your philosophy of government. So, you know, you just you just started it on this, which is why I picked this up. From where you sit now as director and CEO of the National League of Cities, but also with your background in your own consultancy and as mayor of a small city to find good government.

Clarence Anthony: I’ll I’ll continue. It is is support is policies that are developed to address issues good government involves involving the community. All of the community, whether you’re in the east, west, north or south of the community. Good government has a plan and a vision and a blueprint. And the blueprint is created so that we can track the outcomes. And for me, you can have an idea, but good government says it needs to be funded.

So an idea from the federal government or the state government that comes down to the local level and say, you guys must implement this, must have money attached, that’s good government and that’s good policy. Now, we could define good government in so many other ways, but I think that for me, it’s transparency, it’s engagement is thoughtful and is something that really transform communities in a way that includes everybody that lives in that community.

And so when I think about my my time in public service, that’s what I attempted to do, is to make sure that I thought about the least of those as I created public policy because they are not at the table. So it has to be an inclusive decision making process and outcomes.

David Martin: So when you’re sitting with other mayors in your position, the National League of Cities, what do you tell them that they should use as their yardstick for their success? How should they judge their own success? What’s your. Yeah, that’s.

Clarence Anthony: A good that’s that’s the question that a lot of mayors think about in terms of their success and their legacy. For lack of a better term. I talk to them about what do they care about personally and then what are the priorities of the community. And you need to really balance both of those and why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you are tackling certain issues.

And I think the most important thing is to have your fingers on the pulse of the community and make sure that you are leading in an unbiased, humble way and working on those issues in that manner. When you can do that and you can feel good about it while also achieving your own personal goals, I think you’ve done done good.

Now, I also believe in true leadership, so please know that when you run for office and you say that you’re going to tackle crime, you’re going to tackle transportation in a certain way, and you tell people what you’re going to tackle and how you’re going to do it. You get their input, but you need to keep your word.

You need to keep your focus on what you ran for office.

David Martin: To ensure going. I have to I have to hold you accountable. Did you feel like you had an impact in the crime situation in South Bay when you remember?

Clarence Anthony: We did. We did. Okay. And. And yeah, I’ll be very honest with you. And my staff will tell you I’m very direct. I could have. I could still be there right now in South Bay and still not have moved the needle as much as I would have wanted to to move it. And sometimes it’s is hurtful that, you know, the place I grew up in that I couldn’t I couldn’t make the impact that I wish I could have made because of the rural nature having per capita income at that time, a 13,000 having a poor quality of water.

But one thing that I did do two things I did that I’m proud of is I was able to get us off of surface water of Lake Okeechobee, which was filled with fertilizer and turbidity rates. And all of those things were just horrible in our community. But that was our water system. And and so we were able to get Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay to get on a regional water system, which took us off of that surface water and put us on the aquifer.

And that was a major thing because the water became more affordable, right? Instead of instead of before you turn on your faucet, your water bill was $20. It went down to $3 because of the regional.

David Martin: And we should point out, you and I are talking about these towns because we know them. These are three, I’m going to say rural, poor, unsafe communities in many ways. Is that fair?

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, I think, you know, of course, I’m a bit defensive a little bit, David, about my hometown.

David Martin: Well, you.

Clarence Anthony: Know, I mean, they say smart. Back in the day, it was not you know, we all say, you know, when we reflect on where we grew up, so being poor and all that, well, I’m not saying that it was.

David Martin: But they do have high crime rates, those three towns.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, we we do. And I still say we do because that’s where I’m from. And I hold that. I would say that the poverty level is high, the unemployment level is high. And we just didn’t have the interest in moving into rural communities. Even now.

David Martin: These were sugar towns, right?

Clarence Anthony: Yes. Yes. I grew up working in the celery fields. My mom, dad, everybody in my family started there. And we were a migrant family. We migrated from West Belle Glade to Goshen and Florida, New York, working in the salary fields and then went back. So I know I know of that life. Very much so. But I will tell you that I also knew what was missing.

And when I came back, I started working on the things when I became mayor, working on the things that were missing libraries. The only way I’m here talking to you today is because I got an education. I got I was one of the persons that got tapped to be able to, I would say, move on out of that community and go to college.

But when I got in office, I recognized that there was no library in our community. And I fought for five straight years to get a library in South Bay and we were successful.

David Martin: All right. That’s a good cover story.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah, that’s a good government. There is a check. Check. However. However, I will say that I wish I could have done more for my hometown. I wish I could have moved people more out of poverty. I wish I could have improved education in my community. But I was there 24 years, giving it my best.

David Martin: Yeah, I know.

Clarence Anthony: I gave my best and left it all on the field. And I’m not like Brady. I’m not coming back from retirement. I’m done.

David Martin: I’m done. You still have family there. You still return.

Clarence Anthony: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I it you know, it took me ten years to sell my house out there.

David Martin: I’m sure.

Clarence Anthony: Because I was so connected. I still have two sisters. You talk about rural communities. You know, my. My mom lived on one street. I lived on my mom lived on second. I lived on third. And I have two sisters live on Fourth Street in South Bay.

David Martin: Good and bad. Good It bad.

Clarence Anthony: Oh, bad it was. But, you know, it was. You talk about why I have a vision of safety is because of the way I grew up. I mean, I didn’t have to worry about anything because my mom was one street over when I became mayor. My sisters were two streets over, and we all sort of had a you know, I could talk about my.

David Martin: Mom and they were not shy about telling you where you were making mistakes.

Clarence Anthony: Oh, my mom. My mom was the mayor because I traveled.

David Martin: Yeah, but I didn’t.

Clarence Anthony: You know, I don’t I reflect on my life. I just as a kid, I was I was happy. But I knew when we were traveling on these busses going from state to state, working in the fields, when I would see bridges and lights, I knew that there were cities ahead, but I also knew that there were opportunities. I don’t know why.

Even at that stage, I always felt that when I saw I saw a city, that those were places that people would have opportunities. So I’m living my best life in terms of my job because I believe in what I do, because there’s a lot of little kids that grew up just like me. Sure. In rural, poor Florida, predominantly when I left African American or African descent community because you know where we are as Jamaican, Bahamians, Trinidadians are people from all walks of life come into America.

America to start their lives. And a lot of them start in rural communities, and then they move to the big community, big cities, because they think there’s more opportunity. And I encourage that. That’s what America is.

David Martin: So what should people do if they feel like they’re not getting good government? How should they how should they react to that?

Clarence Anthony: I think that that is an amazing and special question right now, because we’re looking at our nation and we’re seeing so much incivility. And when I was in office 28 years ago or whatever the number is now, you know, local never came to your home. City hall was always in city hall. And I think what we’re seeing is misinformation and incivility that concerns me a great deal.

I still think and believe in democracy very strongly. And so I think that if you see something that is missing in your hometown or in your city, you need to go to city hall and let them know, go to city council meeting, get involved in your neighborhood association, your planning commission. If things are not going right, the first step is to get involved and then to get educated and then to make your voice heard.

I would encourage people to run for office if you are committed to good government and good solutions, and if we can get those kinds of leaders interested, I know that our nation and our communities would be better and all of us will be prouder of the place that we live.

David Martin: You’re a former mayor now at the National League of Cities. You interact with mayors across the nation. Government can be slow. Government can be unpredictable. Government can be a problem. Government can get in the way. What would you like people to know about government As an insider? What should people know about government?

Clarence Anthony: I think government to me is a provider is a way of creating opportunity, a vision for where you live, a good planning job creators. If it wasn’t for federal and local government, a lot of the stimulation that has happened in America and then in cities, towns and villages would not have happened if it wasn’t for the incentives. Government is a business.

These are CEOs. They’re mayors. Yes, but they’re CEOs. And sometimes of $1,000,000,000 budget with 13,000 employees making decisions. But we also must understand that it’s the citizens money that we manage. Those are our stakeholders, Those are our investors. And we have a responsibility to and to make sure that we’re good stewards of those investments within our communities when we make decisions.

And I think that when in private sector, when I worked in private sector, we just made a decision to buy those cars in public sector, you have to have 30 days of advertisement. You have to have other policies that you have to follow in procurement. Then you have to share with the public why you’re selecting and then make sure that it’s implemented correctly and then report out again after two years.

Did I make the right decision? We may think that slow, but when you have that heavy responsibility to the public, it’s worth it. Good decision making just doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens because you care about the responsibility you have as a mayor, as a CEO in the public and your investors. They expect that when you’re in private sector, you just don’t have that.

So I just think that I’d like the residents to understand that sometimes the caution that we have when we are making decisions and implementing projects and putting in ordinances is because we want you to trust us and we want to be transparent.

David Martin: You were you said you are a young mayor. What inspired you to have a political hero?

Clarence Anthony: Wow. Political hero. There are so many of them. And I’m not just I’m not supporting that question. I just I just think that this.

David Martin: Is supposed to be one of the easy questions.

Clarence Anthony: Oh, yeah, That’s the easy question.

David Martin: Yeah.

Clarence Anthony: When I when I was sort of in grad school, I saw, you know, Maynard Jackson, for example, in Atlanta, how he changed their structure, how he was really a leader in terms of making sure that diversity of business opportunities occurred in Atlanta is a place too busy to hate. And I just always just love that fact that he believed in in that as a leader.

So I would think that, again, there’s so many mayors out there that every day I see something and council members and other leaders that I see are doing amazing things. So today, it’s really tough for me to identify, even historically because I’m yeah, it is just day to day myself personally. You know, I, I from probably elementary school all the way through to my life now.

I’ve always been an advocate for people that didn’t have a voice. You know, I was the kid that they called my mom to because I was not a bad kid. It was I always challenged things in like the third grade. I raised my hand. As far as Miss McLemore said, this is a history class, right? Says yes. Is there anybody that looks like me that did something good in America besides be a slave?

They put me in a principal’s office, and then I went on to advocate for, you know, better lunches in the in the cafeteria. Then from there, I, you know, wanted a president of student body and my high school because.

David Martin: So you were president. You stood up. So did you. Did you always expect to have a career in politics where you you know, did you want to be governor when you were a kid or president or mayor.

Clarence Anthony: At that time? If you look at my yearbook and my testament for what I wanted to be, I, I was criticized, I was laughed at people poked at me, and I told them I was just joking. But, I mean, I’m in the job that I wanted to have. And that was I wanted to be in Washington, D.C., and be president of the United States of America.

Now, I’m CEO of the National League of Cities, representing all the cities in America. I think I did it. And I’m in Washington, D.C. I think I did it. But I’ve always had that kind of advocate. Heart and smart mouth was always sort of, you know, teachers had challenges with me because I was reading and I was traveling through my reading and was learning through what I was reading.

And a lot of my other high school friends were having more fun than I was. But I, I always felt that way. So when I came back home, I just knew I had to serve. And and I don’t regret coming back to a place that developed me and giving back to that community. And now I’ll do it again.

David Martin: Do you drive by the White House every day?

Clarence Anthony: I don’t drive by the White House every day.

David Martin: You see the Capitol for me, the front outside of your office, right?

Clarence Anthony: Let me tell you, every day I am so blessed and in awe. I mean, seriously, you know where grew up?

David Martin: Yep.

Clarence Anthony: I’m in awe that I drive up to my office on North Capitol in Washington, D.C., and I can see Dome. And I cannot believe that there are days that I am in the White House, that I go to Capitol Hill, that I go to cities all over America, rules small and large urban communities, and I get a chance to talk to people who are transforming our nation, building successful communities, creating jobs for people, developing housing for those that are that don’t have homes.

I mean, I, I am I am just honored to serve and do what I do. And sometimes I stop and I look and I pinch myself.

David Martin: Okay.

Clarence Anthony: And honestly, I cannot believe from where I started that I’m where I am. And my team and my members will tell you I’m real about who I am and where I came from and don’t hide from it, but embrace it because I believe that it took me 40 years to become authentic about where I grew up and my life experience and being a black man in this kind of role.

It took me a while to own it, but now that I do, I own it every day and I am proud of it every day of who I am. And my team comes from every part of our nation as well. And that’s something I wanted to make Sure. I created within this organization called the National League of Cities.

David Martin: So you are from South Central, South Central Florida. You live now in Washington, D.C. But you try it sounds like you travel to lots of cities. What are your favorite dishes? What are we having if you’re if you’re going over to your house for dinner? What Where are you taking me out to in Washington?

Clarence Anthony: Oh, man.

David Martin: Well.

Clarence Anthony: See, I’m still rural, so you got to sit on the back porch with me at the house.

David Martin: I could do that.

Clarence Anthony: And I’ll throw some ribs and some chicken on the back there.

David Martin: Good, good, good. With. Yeah, with you and.

Clarence Anthony: I and I. Oh, I make the I’m the best. I do the best ribs ever. Even my daughter says that.

David Martin: Ever.

Clarence Anthony: And, and.

David Martin: Careful because I come to Washington fairly often.

Clarence Anthony: So man you can’t you can’t even hook up with me. You grew up, you grew up in Miami. I’ll big time there. I would I would say when I travel I that’s the one thing about one D.C. and cities all over America. Every place have the best restaurants.

David Martin: Yes.

Clarence Anthony: Whether it’s Kansas City and their barbecue compare to Texas and there is and all that stuff. I hear all the stories and I get a chance to go to those restaurants with the it’s most of the time. All right. Or a or a city leader. The diversity of cuisines in Washington, D.C. and other cities. I did not experience as as a kid, whether it’s, you know, Indian or Thai or Ethiopian.

Everybody had spaghetti and meatballs. And so the place were always there. But there is something about if you’re really open to experiencing cities and one of the secrets that I would tell your listeners to do when you travel to a new city, especially in another country, if you really want to know about the city, get up about 5:00 in the morning and watch the city wake up.

David Martin: Okay.

Clarence Anthony: You will see it so differently than if you get out at nine and ten because all the cars on the road, then, you know, the streets are full of people are going to work. If you start at about I’ll give you a little later, 530, 6:00 okay. And you start seeing people get up walking their kids, seeing them prepare to go to work.

It’s pretty quiet at that.

David Martin: I mean, actually, you’re sitting at a cafe in Paris, just, you know, oh, my God, six in the morning is amazing.

Clarence Anthony: I just came from Europe, Berlin as well as Paris.

David Martin: Okay.

Clarence Anthony: And I’ve done this in Istanbul.

David Martin: Yeah.

Clarence Anthony: Which was my first experience because I didn’t get this idea. This friend of mine and Istanbul, he says, Let’s get up and go for a walk in the morning. I said, Okay, let’s do that. He says, 5 a.m.. I said, Huh? No. And we ended up going on a walk. He said, I want you to watch Istanbul wake up.

And we went walking and I just saw the city just wake up till about 9:00. Total different city, I’m sure, he said. That’s when you see a real city and that’s when you see why we do what we do as municipal leaders globally in the states throughout this great nation that we have. Wake up, watch it, wake up.

You can see some of the great things, but you can also see some of the source and the other visual that you need. I would encourage your listeners to have is when you fly into a city at night, you’ll see something so beautiful, the lights go forever. Whatever major city it is, it it is. And you say, Oh my goes to city so beautiful.

But then the lights come up the next day when you wake up and then you’re on the ground and you have a different view. Think about both of those views in terms of the place that you live and then think about the fact of what is your role not just as a local leader but as a citizens citizen that live in that community.

How do you create those lights for everybody and how do you help to address those challenges so that they see the lights in their life? I really do think that we got to look at things in in in other shoes. If we’re going to be good policy leaders and good government, we can’t think about it. Only obey the way in which we grew up in our experience.

But what about the other person’s experience? So I’ve been really blessed to be able to travel globally, learn, and then come back to this job and share with my team, but also learn from them because they have had life experience that I have not had.

David Martin: So we always this is the good government. Shall we always bring it back to good government? Can You give me a couple of examples of really impressive good government projects that are going on in some of the cities in America right now that you’ve had a hand in or just been able to find out about Monitor.

Clarence Anthony: So I think the part of our organization that really works with cities is on technical assistance, is our lead center as well as our Center for Municipal Practice. And we’ve done a number of projects that have helped city leaders come up with ways for poor residents to be able to pay their water bills. I mean, call economic empowerment.

So imagine this you’re poor and you get your water cut off. So now you got to pay the late fee, the reconnection fee, right. And then pay the the future water bill at the same time.

David Martin: And probably your last couple of months rent or last couple of months bills.

Clarence Anthony: Yeah. Yeah. And so we went to develop one of those programs with a number of cities throughout America around, you know, that kind of initiative. And we selected about, you know, eight or nine cities. And what we were able to do was to give city leaders some ideas about how do you predict this problem so that you can get ahead of it.

And we were very successful. Saint Petersburg, Florida, is one of those cities, Saint Louis, Missouri. We work with them to do economic empowerment initiatives. So we have been very successful. Public safety has been one of those other issues. We set the table for mayors from throughout America. We went on a tour in Newark, New Jersey. We were able to collect best practices and we gave them those best practices.

So now the pilot program that was developed in Newark, New Jersey, where we’ve seen real outcomes are being implemented in Baton Rouge, is being implemented in Saint Louis, is being implemented in West Palm Beach, Florida. So all of those cities are starting to use those examples from the tables that we have set within our community. So I think, you know, as we look at our real initiative, Race, Equity and Leadership Initiative is another prime example where when I first took this job, I started seeing all of just the killings that was happening in in some of our cities and towns.

And so what I did is ask our members what do you need in the issue of race is a very difficult issue. So the part of real race equity and leadership is the elite leadership. We develop modules, toolkits, training, communicating in terms of these issues that we’ve seen, where leaders have really done an amazing job at when an incident like this happened in your community here’s what you could do to make your community know that you are helping to solve this issue in terms of bringing them back together and believing in their local government.

David Martin: Well, Clarence Anthony, executive director and CEO, the National League of Cities, and more importantly, the host of City Speak podcast. It was a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for coming on.

Clarence Anthony: David. Thank you so much. So I look forward to having you on City Speak as well.

David Martin: I would love to join you on your show and we will. I would love to make that happen. It was a pleasure meeting you. It was a pleasure talking with you. Keep doing it. Good luck and for a young kid out of out of South Bay, you’re president and you’re in Washington of your president. So I think it’s I think you’re ready to take our word a.

Clarence Anthony: Working for good government. That’s what I’m doing every day.

David Martin: Thank you. But so am I. So my thanks very much. Kutztown University is a smart choice for Pennsylvania students or students from anywhere looking for an outstanding college experience close to home and in the heart of Pennsylvania, with over 130 majors, CU has endless academic opportunities. Kutztown also offers plenty of on campus housing 24 seven dining options, comprehensive support services to ensure our students success and so much more.

Kutztown has 22 NCAA Division two sports teams and a nationally recognized men’s rugby team. How about that? Plus, you get it all with the affordable tuition of a state university. So visit Kutztown Dot Edu on the Web, Kutztown dot edu, and see why it’s good to be golden. That was the director and CEO of the National League of Cities, Clarence Anthony.

To quote him, good government involves, quote, all of the community. And as he said, it has to have, quote, a plan and a vision. Well, that’s certainly a good start. As he said, government is a solutions provider and that’s not bad for a guy who described himself as the kid with the smart mouth who wanted to be president and live in Washington, D.C..

Well, the kid made good today. Some pretty smart ideas are coming out of that mouth and they’re helping make government better across the country. Well, that’s our show. Thanks for listening. Check out City. Speak where you get your podcasts. We’d like to share good government ideas wherever we find them. And who knows? You might even hear me on a future episode.

In the meantime, please check us out on your favorite social media like us and share shows with your friends. Until next time, want to have a conversation with another government leader? I’m your host, Dave Martin, and this is the good government show. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

The good government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers. Our editor and producer is Jason Stershic. This is the good government show. Thanks for listening.

**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.