Leading the American City

An Interview Series by Boston University

Leading the American City is a five-part video history of American mayoral leadership, governance, and power. The series features personal interviews with eight transformative mayors, who reflect on their time in office and offer insight into the job of mayor.  

Read more about the featured mayors, who include:

  • Karl Dean, Mayor of Nashville, TN, 2007-2015
  • Manny Diaz, Mayor of Miami, FL, 2001-2009
  • Shirley Franklin, Mayor of Atlanta, GA, 2002-2010
  • Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia, PA, 2008-2016
  • Don Plusquellic, Mayor of Akron, OH, 1987-2015
  • Scott Smith, Mayor of Mesa, AZ, 2008-2014
  • Anthony Williams, Mayor of Washington, DC, 1999-2007
  • Lisa Wong, Mayor of Fitchburg, MA, 2007-2015

This series is intended for the public, scholars, students, and current and aspiring mayors. The videos are free to use and distribute and may be accessed through this page or our YouTube channel.

If you would like additional information on Leading the American City or to collaborate, please contact ioc@bu.edu


The opening video of the series, in which mayors reflect on the institutional status of their office, the ability to shape their cities through soft power, and the oftentimes grueling pace of the job. (7:49 min.)


Mayors let us in on what first drove them to public service and what made them run for political office in races that, at times, seemed impossible to win. (6:48 min.)


From emulating President Kennedy’s call for the best and brightest to the decision to retain most of the predecessor’s cabinet, mayors talk about what guided them when recruiting for top positions in City Hall. (7:16 min.)


Mayors share their high and low points when interacting with their constituents and reveal what it means to have the most personal political job in the country. (4:40 min.)


Mayors recount what it took to turn the public’s perception of a failing city around. And yes, baseball has played a critical role in more than one case! (5:22 min.)


Additional Resources

About the Initiative on Cities

The Boston University Initiative on Cities researches, promotes, and advances the adaptive urban leadership strategies and policies necessary to support cities as dynamic and inclusive centers of growth and positive development in the 21st century. Founded by a proven urban leader, the late Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino, and a highly regarded academic, Professor Graham Wilson, the Initiative serves as a bridge between academic research and the real-life practice of city governance.

Menino Survey of Mayors
The Menino Survey of Mayors is the only nationally representative and scientifically rigorous survey of American mayors. It was created by the Initiative on Cities to reveal the priorities, challenges, perspectives and relationships of mayors across the country as they seek to build vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive communities. The Survey is named for the late Mayor Tom Menino, the Initiative’s co-founder and a transformative and renowned Mayor of Boston.

City Leadership Summits
The Initiative on Cities hosts summits that bring together urban mayors and leaders from around the world to examine timely challenges facing cities and the dynamic leadership strategies that are instrumental to tackling them. Past Summits include: Crisis Leadership and lessons from the Boston MarathonSea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal CitiesFiscal Leadership and the Modern CityTransportation Nudges: Experiments in Improving Urban MobilityThe Dynamic City: Futures for the PastCities & Kids: Enabling Optimal Development for Urban Youth; and the UK-International Metro Mayors Summit.