Tom Cochran, the CEO and executive director of the United States Conference of Mayors, hands Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett the gavel July 18 at Oakland University.

Tom Cochran, the CEO and executive director of the United States Conference of Mayors, hands Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett the gavel July 18 at Oakland University.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Barnett named president of U.S. Conference of Mayors

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 24, 2019


ROCHESTER HILLS — For Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, being named the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is more than just an honor.

“If you’ve ever wondered what a dream coming true actually looks like in real life, this is it,” Barnett said during his address at Oakland University July 18.

Barnett officially became the 77th president of the organization in a gavel-passing ceremony July 1 with the outgoing president — Mayor Steve Benjamin, of Columbia, South Carolina — in Honolulu.

“This is the highest honor an American mayor can have, because he is elected by the mayors of the United States to be their mayor and spokesman for a year and really to be America’s mayor,” said group CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran.

During a celebration event at Oakland University, Barnett announced his key priorities and said that he will continue a bipartisan platform that has served as the core commitment of the conference over the last year.

“We met, Steve (Benjamin) and I, almost 16 months ago to discuss a new platform and a new idea for the conference … to work together to share a focus and to give our conference staff, our members and our Washington colleagues a solid, two-year, clear and distinctive direction,” Barnett said. “We both have a passion for this organization and an equal passion for avoiding the crippling partisanship that we’ve seen seize every other layer of government in our nation.”  

Barnett said his key priorities for the next year also include infrastructure, innovation and inclusion.

“I believe those three I’s to be fundamental to the advancement of every city represented here in this room and in this country,” he said.

Barnett announced the 100 Mayors Who Care initiative, modeled after 100 Women Who Care — which was started in November 2006 by Karen Dunigan, of Jackson, and was launched in the Rochester area in April 2013 by Barbara Donohoe, Linda Chayka and Amy Whipple.

Barnett said 100 Mayors Who Care will provide an investment in a charitable organization of the participating mayors’ choosing.

Barnett said his leadership and involvement in the U.S. Conference of Mayors will allow Rochester Hills to build relationships, resources and relevance across the nation.

“There’s no denying that relationships matter, and our connection with the conference has allowed me and our community to build relationships and gain access to people that we otherwise would not have had the ability to have met. That means having an audience many times over the past several years with both presidents, Obama and Trump,” he said. “In this unique political year ahead, we will have direct access to leading 2020 presidential contenders, including two mayors running for president, and the ability to personally advocate policy for the issues most important to our residents.”

He said the city has received numerous grants and in-kind services via the Mayors Institute on City Design — which allowed architects and designers from across the country to review plans and offer suggestions for Innovation Hills Park.

“Grants received this past year alone from this conference and related partners totaled over $80,000,” he said.

Barnett is the longest-serving mayor — 13 years — in the history of Rochester Hills. In November 2015, he won a historic third mayoral term as a write-in candidate.