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Advocating for COMO Beyond Our City Limits

Advocating for COMO Beyond Our City Limits

  • "Advocating for COMO Beyond Our City Limits" originally appeared in the June 2024 "Animal" issue of COMO Magazine.
Mayor Buffaloe poses with the U.S. mayors delegation at Villa La Grange, a historical landmark in Geneva, Switzerland.

As mayor, I have the privilege of representing our city in ways that extend well beyond our local boundaries. One of the most impactful ways has been through my active participation in associations and networks. This June, I and hundreds of mayors from around the country, will be gathering in Kansas City, Missouri for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a nonpartisan association where mayors engage directly with the president and Congress on the most important issues facing cities today. Like any good organization, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is an engine of progress, fostering collaboration among members, helping members share best practices, advocating on national and international scales. Regardless of your position or profession, being actively engaged in such organizations brings unique experiences and opportunities.  

A recent experience underscored for me the importance of active participation. In April, I traveled to several cities in Switzerland as part of an international delegation of women mayors. In cities like Zurich and Geneva, I witnessed innovative approaches to transportation, infill housing, and green infrastructure. These cities set ambitious goals for sustainability and are making remarkable progress towards achieving those goals. I was inspired by the approaches that I saw and was excited to bring those ideas home to Columbia.  

Importantly, this experience came about from my engagement with my professional associations. For me, being a part of any organization is about more than attending meetings; it is about building relationships, forging connections, gaining from other members’ knowledge, and letting other members know where my own expertise lies. This kind of active participation has brought opportunities for me and our city.  

Participating in international delegations elevates the profile of Columbia on the world stage. When a mayor is invited to discuss issues with counterparts from around the globe, it signals that their city is part of a broader conversation — one that transcends borders. It also facilitates conversations that would not otherwise be possible. 

For instance, Basel, Switzerland is the headquarters for Novartis — a multinational company leading global efforts in biomedical research. While in Basel, I was able to speak with representatives of Novartis and thank them for their multiyear agreement with the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR), which allows them to use our locally produced radioisotopes in their cancer research. I was also able to explain to my peer mayors that Columbia’s MURR is the highest-power university research reactor in the United States, and the only U.S. supplier of the radioisotope. (Yes, I might have been flexing a bit.)  

In addition to elevating Columbia’s profile, an invaluable aspect of being part of an organization like the U.S. Conference of Mayors is the chance to advocate for federal support for local priorities. Whether it’s securing funding for infrastructure projects — like our recent grants from the Department of Transportation, totaling almost $30 million for road improvements and transit infrastructure — or advocating on Capitol Hill for a federal-local partnership to improve access to mental health services and housing programs, collective action has amplified Columbia’s voice in Washington, D.C.  

I want to emphasize that when your mayor participates in international delegations or engages with national associations, it reflects our city’s importance and its aspirations. It underscores our commitment to progress, collaboration, and continuous improvement. As we navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, let us remain connected, engaged, and proactive in shaping the future of Columbia, Missouri — both locally and globally.  

Together, through our collective efforts and partnerships, we can build a stronger, more resilient, and more vibrant community for generations to come.  

Barbara Buffaloe photographed in Downtown Columbia

Barbara Buffaloe currently is serving her first term in office as the mayor of Columbia.

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