Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Recap From Next American City Vanguard Conference In St. Louis

In October 2012, 43 of the nation’s young urban leaders met up in St. Louis for the Next American City Vanguard conference, an annual competition to find the “40-under-40” urban leaders who have “bright ideas for cities, experience in the field and ambition for the future.” I was honored to take part in the two-day conference and meet some of my peers from around the country while also experiencing the sights and sounds that make the city of St. Louis one of America’s great cities.

The conference was held in downtown St. Louis and included events at the City Museum, Regional Arts Commission in Delmar and a developer’s rooftop condo in the Washington Avenue Loft District. We also went on a bus tour of the city to see firsthand all of the great urban neighborhoods of St. Louis, as well as learn more about the history and revitalization of what was once America’s fourth largest city. We also had many opportunities to socialize with our fellow Vanguards at local bars and restaurants and learn more about the work we are all doing in many different cities in multiple sectors and environments.

Overall, the Vanguard conference was a great experience, and I left feeling confident that there are so many other young people out there who share my passion for sustainable and equitable transit-oriented communities. We all learned a great deal from each other and enhanced our social networks, and I feel confident that we will keep in touch as we progress in our careers and confront common challenges. It also reinforced my belief that each of our communities is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to what ails them. Some Vanguards are working solely in one community while others, including myself, work nationally. The cities we represented were all at different stages of growth as well—some hailed from Rust Belt cities where things are just turning around, while others like me live in growing regions that are at critical stages in their urban development. The issues we care about are also quite diverse. But we are ambitious, passionate individuals who are the future leaders of our communities, and the opportunity to spend 48 hours together created an “idea virus” that will help us all with our work back home.

  • To learn more about the Vanguard class of 2012, read the official announcement here.
  • Reconnecting America’s announcement of the Vanguard award here.
  • A slideshow from the conference is available here