Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley has been renamed to the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, (MRCTI) executive committee.
MRCTI is a group of mayors who formed last year to protect the interests of their Mississippi River locales. Smiley was renamed to the committee at a late-June meeting in St. Cloud, Minn.
“Our effort is for the whole of the river and watershed, not just for New Orleans or Memphis,” Smiley said Tuesday, July 16.
The MRCTI meetings allow Smiley to speak with government officials in private on issues that pertain to Clarksville and Pike County as well.
“It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Smiley said.
“In St. Cloud, I spoke privately with the FEMA lady who is the representative for this region about Clarksville flooding.”
The larger question of restoring pre-disaster mitigation funds in the federal budget then came up in the committee meeting, Smiley said.
When Smiley went to Washington, D.C. with the group last year, she was able to speak privately with federal legislators as well.
The MRCTI “is good for small communities because we get representation,” Smiley said. “We talk about reforms and establishment of programs,” for river clarity and economics.
“She’s a great lady and a great mayor,” said MRCTI Director Colin Wellenkamp. “She’s been a force for change already. Her commitment and tenacity to not wall off the river and the resource from her town has been a great example for the other mayors.”
The MRCTI is made up of 55 Missisippi River mayors from as large as St. Louis and as small as Clarksville. When the bipartisan group formed in September 2012, the group wanted metropolitan and rural perspectives, which led to Smiley being named.
The MRCTI was patterned from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which successfully lobbies for growth and protections in towns on those waterways.
Both initiatives are under the umbrella of the Northeast-Midwest Institute, a non-profit information gathering entity used to influence government policy and legislation.
MRCTI is funded by the Walton Family Foundations “to create an influential voice for the Mississippi River that dramatically increases demand for effective river protection, restoration and management in Washington, D.C.,” according to an MRCTI statement.
“The recent severe drought and floods severely impacted the towns, cities and people who live and make a living along the Mississippi River highlighted the urgent need for a unified effort to protect and sustain the river,” the statement said.
Besides Smiley, this year’s executive panel includes Dave Kleis of St. Cloud, Minn.; Mark Huber, of Prescott, Wis., Mark Vulich, of Clinton, Iowa; Tom Thompson, of Grafton, Ill.; David Lattus, of Hickman, Ken., Larry Brown, of Natchez, Miss.; Roy Buol of Dubuque, Iowa; A.C. Wharton of Memphis, Tenn. and Hyram Copeland, of Vidalia, La.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was also given a Founder’s Seat on the MRCTI executive committee.
For more on the MRCTI, see the website www.nemw.org