Rochester Hills mayor heads up new role as President of U.S. Conference of Mayors

Usually the leader of the U.S. Conference of Mayors represents one of the country's bigger cities. 

When the United States' cities balloon into the millions, some mayors might be in charge of jurisdictions larger than some states. But not this one.

Mayor Bryan Barnett, of Rochester Hills works for a city of almost 75,000 people. But now he has another title, taking over as the newest president of the conference. And why was he selected? Think economy and manufacturing.

"More robots are made in our city than in any other city in North America," Barnett said. "So we are the robotic capital of our continent."

The metro city mayor knows the value of manufacturing, running a city that is ground zero for robots. His knowledge has come in handy too.

"So we went down there and talked with the president of Mexico, I was involved with many phone calls with The White House on the way down and thankfully as you know we were able to avoid tariffs for the time being and that ladders right up to my role as the mayor of Rochester Hills," he said.

Barnett will preside over a group of 14,000 mayors. Cities must meet a population threshold of 30,000 to be considered. Many of those officials are part of a golden age of mayoral stature. Barnett mentioned that some mayors are even perusing offices much higher than their current position, like U.S. president.

"We have two mayors that will be in the debate tonight and tomorrow," he said. "Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Mayor Bill DeBlasio, both of them, their politics are far different than mine but I have a deep friendship and relationship with both because I think we see each other as colleagues before we see each other as D's and R's."

That understanding is matched by initiative to take the country's cities into the future. Barnett said he wants to focus on the three I's: Infrastructure, Innovation and Inclusion. They heavily impact southeast Michigan, and no doubt affect other cities as well.

"Big cities, small cities suburban cities, core cities, rural cities," Barnett said. "Everyone is trying to harness innovation to try to do things faster, quicker, better and respond in more efficient ways to the residents." 

That focus means spearheading efforts to improve ports and roads. At the upcoming leadership conference for mayors, these dicussions will be put on display in October, when the thousands of leaders converge on Michigan.