The mayors of 10 nationally recognized
cities have gathered in Mississippi to talk about what sets them
apart from other municipalities and brainstorm ways to make their
communities even more family friendly.
The weekend summit is hosted by Madison Mayor Mary Butler
Hawkins, whose city of 16,930 was listed among Family Circle
magazine's best places for families.
Hawkins said she's interested in several of the practices in
other cities, including an annual father-daughter St. Valentine's
date in Chanhanssen, Minn., and a public forum sponsored by Castle
Rock, Colo., to get citizens' input once a year.
Chanhanssen Mayor Tom Furlong said his city is home to music
superstar, Prince, and the artist's Paisley Park Studios, but he
also boasted about its 80 miles of walking trails and numerous
parks that "make it a wonderful place for families to get
The other mayors attending the summit were from Diamond Bar,
Calif.; Franklin, Mass.; Cedar Park, Texas; Derby, Kan.; Morton
Grove, Ill.; Kennesaw, Ga.; and Cooper City, Fla.
Family Circle selected the cities based on low crime rates,
health care, air quality, green space, schools and jobs.
Cooper City Mayor Debby Eisinger said her city of 30,000 has a
"relatively small" operating budget of $32 million. To stretch
those dollars, Cooper City relies heavily on volunteers.
Eisinger said the Optimist Club, a network of volunteers who
assist with the city's nine athletic programs, has saved Cooper
City millions of dollars that otherwise would have been spent on
Eisinger said the city has room to grow as it doesn't have a
hotel and its largest retailer is Wal-Mart.
"We still want to keep the small town feel, but realize the
need to have a tax base," Eisinger said.
Hawkins, who has led Madison for 27 years, also wants to
"Your city has to grow to be healthy, but it's how you grow,"
Hawkins said Friday. "We have tried to put policies and
enforcement in place that will direct this growth, and it's a
challenge every day."
Over the past two decades, Madison has become one of the most
affluent suburbs in Mississippi. The median home value is $242,760.
The median income is $83,477.
As the first city in the state to have a mandatory landscape
ordinance, Hawkins' has gained a reputation for being a stickler
for aesthetics and often clashes with developers.
Nearly no business is given a waiver on design. An Exxon gas
station located near the site of the summit has Corinthian columns
separating the fuel pumps.
"Even though someone may have a piece of property, and they
feel they can do whatever they want to with it, if it's not done
right, it could affect the property around it and it can affect the
overall city in a negative way," said Hawkins.
Hawkins said her policies have proven lucrative as property
values have skyrocketed over the past few years.