National League of Cities kicks off ‘Roadshow’ in Lawrence to celebrate organization’s 100th anniversary

Wed, 02/21/2024


Sydney Bannister

LAWRENCE — In 1924, the National League of Cities (NLC) was founded at the University of Kansas in the original Fraser Hall. To commemorate this historic milestone, NLC, the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration (SPAA), the League of Kansas Municipalities and the city of Lawrence will convene at KU for a daylong celebration Feb. 29, followed by a half-day visit to the League of Kansas Municipalities in Topeka.

Lawrence will serve as the first stop in a roadshow at 100 cities across the country, culminating in November at NLC’s City Summit conference in Tampa, Florida.

“It’s an honor to kick off the National League of Cities’ Centennial Roadshow in Lawrence, Kansas, where this great organization was founded,” said Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. “Having the opportunity to gather at the University of Kansas allows us to reflect on NLC’s history and look ahead to the opportunities the next 100 years will bring for America’s cities, towns and villages. After beginning our roadshow in Lawrence, we’ll be traveling from coast-to-coast, visiting cities of all sizes to celebrate all that local governments and their residents have given to our country over the last century.”

National League of Cities history

In 1924, 10 state leagues were brought together by John Stutz at KU to create a new, national organization to serve as a clearinghouse for information about municipal government. Stutz is the longest-serving director for the League of Kansas Municipalities, at 35 years. In that time, Stutz became known nationwide as a local government expert and leader in the development of municipal associations. It was during his tenure as executive secretary of the League of Kansas Municipalities that Stutz also became the first executive secretary of the American Municipal Association, later renamed the National League of Cities in 1964.

Over the next 100 years, the nonpartisan National League of Cities has grown in size and influence, serving as a resource for mayors, city council members and municipal government staff, providing them with research and technical expertise.

The National League of Cities, now based in Washington, D.C., serves as a advocate for the nation’s cities, towns and villages in the nation’s capital and has played a historic role in shaping some of the country’s most significant pieces of public policy. Among these are the passage of the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As a testament to the organization, presidents of the National League of Cities have gone on to become governors, members of Congress, senators and cabinet secretaries.

Hosted by champions of excellence in public service

In addition to celebrating the rich and impactful history of NLC’s 100 years, this visit has also provided an opportunity for the three hosting organizations to reflect on their own roles in shaping local government and public service in Kansas and across the country. 

“Kansas played a significant role in the National League of Cities' founding, with our own John Stutz leading the organization in its early years. Like NLC, the League of Kansas Municipalities has always prioritized serving our members by listening well and responding to local needs,” said Nathan Eberline, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities. “Today, as cities face challenges like infrastructure renewal, affordable housing and other critical issues, NLC remains an invaluable resource — connecting local leaders and amplifying their voices on the national stage,”

Before the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration was formally established, the Master of Public Administration program drew prospective public servants from across the country. The program will celebrate its 75th anniversary in Tampa at the International City/County Manager Association Annual Conference in fall 2025. Further, the KU Master of Urban Planning program celebrates 50 years of educating planners for careers in sustainability, transportation, housing, community building, environmental conservation, governance, nonprofits, advocacy and more.  

This celebration will include a new addition to the KU SPAA community, School Director Maja Husar Holmes, who arrived in Lawrence in January 2024.

“The centennial celebration of the founding of National Leagues of Cities in Lawrence highlights the deep commitment of the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration to its No. 1 ranking in local government management,” Holmes said.

For more than two decades, the KU MPA program has held the top spot in local government management as reported by U.S. News & World Report, highlighting KU and the city of Lawrence as inherent focal points for public service and the origins of local government excellence and resiliency.

“I am thrilled to welcome all to the birthplace of the National League of Cities as we joyously commemorate its 100th anniversary, a testament to the enduring spirit of community and collaboration that defines our nation's municipalities,” said Bart Littlejohn, mayor of Lawrence.

Wed, 02/21/2024


Sydney Bannister

Media Contacts

Sydney Bannister

School of Public Affairs & Administration