Achieving your goals is never entirely straightforward when working in government. Any lasting solution requires both public support and a practical execution. Limitations such as funding, technology, human resources, and existing infrastructure create stumbling blocks that can hinder development. The question of how to address community needs while sustaining both financial integrity and approval ratings is a crucial one. This month we visit Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, who balances the needs of her constituents with a sensible approach to government.
Rogero’s philosophy for development is 'rebuilding from the inside out'. By attracting funds to Knoxville’s downtown area, she sustains income flow into the city and directs money to the surrounding neighborhoods. This investment has brought in new lofts and restored other residential buildings in the downtown area. Noting the importance of partnerships formed between the public sector and private developers, Mayor Rogero frequently makes use of businesses to reinvest in the city while minimizing the impact on public funds. For instance, a proposed public-private partnership aims to lower airfare at the nearby McGhee Tyson Airport. With the Urban Wilderness project, Rogero and the Legacy Parks Foundation added new public outdoor spaces that neither could develop alone. Rogero gets the most from public funding by using it as a catalyst to spur private sector investment.
Another key to success for Rogero’s Knoxville is sustainability. Rogero plans to employ previously blighted properties to create an Urban Food Corridor. This is part of a greater Knoxville initiative to combat food deserts. Similar restorative strategies can be seen in her revitalization of the Downtown North neighborhood. There, narrower streets and restored sidewalks create a more livable and business friendly environment. Mayor Rogero also initiated the “Mayor's Energy Efficiency Challenge", where businesses can acquire low interest loans to improve their energy efficiency. This program feeds into Knoxville’s citywide effort to cut its energy footprint 20% by the year 2020. By focusing on reinvestment in existing municipal capital, Rogero helps create neighborhoods and businesses that last.
Mayor Rogero is dedicated to ensuring that government is reflective of the people it represents. She believes that women have a responsibility to get involved in government, and traveled to Turkey to discuss the importance of women running for public office. Madeline Rogero is also a supporter of the LGBT community. She stood up against the state legislature's “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have banned the mention of homosexuality in public primary schools. Rogero also walked in Knoxville’s pride parade, and introduced a non-discrimination ordinance to protect city employees from prejudicial action based on their gender or sexual identity. These firm stances help ensure that each resident of Knoxville is afforded the same representation through their local government.
This May, we look to Madeline Rogero, a mayor who exemplifies resourcefulness and pragmatism. She builds new economic footholds, promotes sustainable business practices, and enables equal opportunities for all her constituents. It is this straightforward and practical approach to governing that allows her to navigate between what needs to get done, and what resources are available to accomplish those goals. DMO looks to Mayor Rogero as true local leader, and knows that our DMO of the Month for May will continue to make an impact on Knoxville.
Rogero is active in National League of Cities, and has struck a blow against violence with her work through NLC’s Cites United initiative. She previous worked as a county commissioner, an urban planner, and an organizer with the United Farm Workers. Rogero is one of the 26 government leaders selected to serve on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Madeline Rogero received a BA in political science from Furman University and a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Tennessee.