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Chapel Hill to host US mayors for 3-day conference

The project’s summer meetings are always hosted in the town of one of the project’s Steering Committee members. A s a member of the committee, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt pitched Chapel Hill for this year’s summer meeting.

“Mayor Kleinschmidt was very enthusiastic about hosting us and made a very strong argument to the Steering Committee that he should host this year,” said Satya Rhodes-Conway, managing director of the project.

“We look at trying to spread our meetings around the country. We want to make (our summer meetings) easier for member cities to get to in a particular region.”

Chapel Hill has been a member of the Mayors Innovation Project since 2006.  Hosting aside, just being part of the project is beneficial for the town, Kleinschmidt said.

“The fact that we’re hosting gives us the opportunity to kind of show off a little bit about things that we’re doing really well but also to confess some of the challenges we have in order to get some feedback and some suggestions from people who are kind of removed from it,” he said.

About 75 mayors will attend the conference, said Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill and Orange County Visitors Bureau.

The logistics of the project’s summer meetings — including tours, speakers and panel discussions — take time to plan.

“It’s a fairly extensive process,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We start planning the meetings at a minimum of six months out.”

The conference attendees will stay at the Carolina Inn, and the conference will kick off Wednesday evening with a reception at Top of the Hill Distillery.  On Thursday, the mayors will participate in a series of tours in the area.

“Being municipal leaders, these aren’t your typical tourist tours. These are tours of affordable housing, higher education, things like that,” Paolicelli said. “It’s not like they’re just this big motor coach bus of tourists.”

Thursday evening will feature keynote speaker Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor and author.

On Friday, there will be panels and discussions, along with a trip to the Carolina Basketball Museum  and a tour of the Smith Center organized by the Visitors Bureau.

“We are grateful to the people like Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt who bring their national associations to Chapel Hill and Orange County, which not only improves our tourism economy but really gives national leaders a chance to see all that we did right here in our own backyard,” Paolicelli said.

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