About the National Civic League

Model City CharterFounded by Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Louis Brandeis and other leading municipal reformers in the late nineteenth century, the league has been instrumental in efforts to make local governments more open, accountable and effective.

Today, more than ever, the National Civic League is critical to vibrant communities and a strong democracy. NCL provides unique opportunities for people to transform themselves and their communities through the All-America City Awards, the Model City Charter, the Civic Index, National Civic Review, and research into leadership and community engagement in leading local government fiscal sustainability. NCL depends on groups and individuals across the country that believe in promoting community engagement and problem solving approaches to support this important work.

A 120-year old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, NCL’s mission is accomplished by fostering and sharing promising practices of local government and public engagement and celebrating the progress that can be achieved when people work together. Our core values are:

  • Public participation and civic action
  • Diversity and inclusiveness
  • Greater democracy and higher performing governments
  • Hope and the nurturing of successful communities

NCL works by forming strategic partnerships with local government organizations, nonprofit organizations, and others and by fully engaging those in the NCL family, particularly its members and the more than 500 AAC communities.

Who We Are

NCL envisions a country in which all people engage in the process of self-governance and encourages cross-sector partnerships resulting in an active civic culture reflecting the diversity of community voices.
The mission of the National Civic League is to advance good governance and civic engagement to create inclusive, thriving communities. We achieve this by inspiring, supporting and recognizing equitable approaches to community decision-making.
Originally known as the National Municipal League, the organization was founded during a period of social, political and economic turmoil. The date was 1894, and a group of leading municipal reformers had gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the future of city government. Among those founders were some of the leading thinkers and activists of the Progressive Era, a list that included Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, Frederick Law Olmsted and Mary Mumford. Read More


The All-America City Award has transformed participants and their communities. From the application to the competition, this program promotes hope and energizes people with a can-do spirit. The application process gives communities an opportunity to engage residents in a new way and build new relationships, especially across sectors.
Engage NCL to help you think through issues, barriers to progress, plan, and help you implement your plan. Whether you are conducting transportation oriented development or seeking community engagement on developing budget priorities, NCL has skilled staff to help.
NCL publications such as the Model City Charter, Civic Index and Guide to Charter Commissions provide valuable insights and practical information for community leaders, civic activists, public managers, nonprofit executives and public administration scholars. Click here for a list of NCL publications and information on how to order them.

Leadership Team

Doug Linkhart
Doug LinkhartPresident
Doug Linkhart became President of the National Civic League in December 2015. He served in elected office for 18 years, including eight years as a Denver City Councilman and ten years as a Colorado State Legislator. Doug also managed a city agency for four years and founded a nonprofit organization to serve neighborhood associations and their residents, which he directed for ten years.
Michael McGrath
Michael McGrathChief Information Officer
As chief information officer and editor of the National Civic Review, Michael McGrath coordinates online and print publication programs for the National Civic League.  He is a researcher and writer for NCL’s Fiscal Sustainability Case Investigations Project
Carla Kimbrough
Carla KimbroughProgram Director: Racial Equity
Carla Kimbrough is program director/racial equity at the National Civic League. Before joining NCL, Kimbrough taught various journalism courses, including race, gender and media. She spent most of her career as a newspaper journalist, working as a reporter, editor and later leading hiring and training efforts. As a journalist, Kimbrough was an advocate and trainer for greater access/coverage of under served communities.
Sarah Lipscomb
Sarah LipscombProgram Director: All-America City Award and Community Assistance
As Program Director: All-America City Award and Community Assistance Sarah Lipscomb manages the All-America City Award program, coordinates membership services and provides facilitation and strategic planning services.
Aaron Leavy
Aaron LeavyProgram Director: Sustainability & Civic Engagement
Aaron Leavy, Program Director: Sustainability & Civic Engagement, leads NCL's partnership with ICMA and the Department of Energy around solar ready communities, as well as our work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He brings civic engagement and training expertise to NCL's community services projects and strategic planning efforts.
Sue Lawson Gonzales
Sue Lawson GonzalesOffice and Communications Manager
Sue Lawson Gonzales manages National Civic League's business operations and coordinates external communications. She draws on 25+ years experience in nonprofit management and civic engagement.

Board of Directors


David M. Sander, Ph.D.  - Vice Mayor, Rancho Cordova, California

Vice Chair

Derek Okubo -  Executive Director Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver, Colorado


Lee Feldman -  City Manager, Fort Lauderdale, FL


Alberto Olivas  - Director, MCCCD Center for Civic Participation (Maricopa Community College)


Doug Linkhart -  President, National Civic League, Denver, Colorado


James A. Cloar  - Commissioner, Tampa Housing Authority, Tampa, Florida
Hon. Brad Cole - Executive Director, Illinois Municipal League
Reyna Farrales  - Deputy County Manager, County of San Mateo, California
Dr. Jarvis A. Hall  - Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
Hon. Steve Hogan - Mayor, City of Aurora, Colorado
Hon. Glenda Hood - Former Secretary of State of Florida, Florida
Valerie Lemmie - Director of Exploratory Research, Kettering Foundation, Ohio
Ronald O. Loveridge  -
Former Mayor, Riverside, California
Maureen McDonald - Senior Director, Community Benefit & Relations, Kaiser Permanente, Colorado
Terry Minger  - Former CEO, Piton Foundation, Boulder, Colorado
David G. Palmer -  Managing Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, Denver, Colorado
Angela Romans - Co-Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform (Brown University), Providence, Rhode Island
Cindy Steinhauser - Assistant City Manager, Dubuque, Iowa
Hon. Angel Tavares - Former Mayor, Providence, Rhode Island
Dr. Lyle Wray  - Executive Director, Capital Region Council of Governments, Hartford, Connecticut