Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez was among mayors from 24 U.S. cities and 14 international cities invited to attend a four-day executive leadership and management training class offered through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.
The event, in its fifth year, took place the last week of September in New York City, with classes taught by faculty from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School and featuring urban policy and innovation experts from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a global philanthropic network founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. All costs for attendees were covered by the program.
Mendez said having access to such high-caliber faculty and experts was an amazing experience that he thinks will make him a better leader, and that he plans to apply the skills he learned to helping improve the city. The New York sessions were the first step of the year-long city leadership class, and a team from the city will continue to participate through virtual meetings with Harvard faculty and staff throughout the year, he said.
Mendez said a big takeaway for him is how much he had in common with his fellow mayors, despite some of them coming from as far away as the United Kingdom, Central and South America and South Africa. Also attending were 76 senior city leaders from around the world.
“Certainly we had COVID in common,” he said. “But we really all deal with a lot of the same issues and struggles in our cities, whether that’s building public consensus or using data and innovation to make a better city.”
Mendez said part of the reason he was chosen to participate is “because of all the things we’re doing in Brownsville,” some of which he had the opportunity to discuss while in New York.
“We all kind of talked a little bit about ourselves and about our cities and had a chance to talk with the professors during the classes,” he said. “It was very interactive, just like a regular classroom. It was really like going back to school, except it was going back to school to help the city. It’s a great platform to be able to share our story with not only Harvard and Bloomberg … but also just to share it with these other mayors from around the world.”
In a statement announcing the city leadership initiative class of 2022, Michael Bloomberg said the program was created “because cities have always been on the front lines of the biggest challenges we face — and it’s critical that mayors have the skills, support and resources they need to confront them. Five years later, with mayors leading the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more clear how important that work is.”
The program’s alumni so far consists of 158 mayors from cities around the world. Two other Texas mayors were invited to take part in the fifth leadership class: Mayor Paulette Guajardo from Corpus Christi and Mayor Ginger Nelson of Amarillo.
“It was a tremendous experience and I’m very fortunate and humbled to have been a part of it,” Mendez said.