For more than 120 years, National Civic League has been at the forefront of civic innovation

A Legacy of Leadership. Innovation for the Future.

The National Civic League was founded as the National Municipal League following a gathering of civic leaders in 1894. This respected group of about 100 community leaders, including Teddy Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, and Frederick Law Olmstead, came together to address “incompetence, inefficiency, patronage and corruption in local governments.” Local civic leaders needed inspiration and new models for governing and managing the nation’s cities.

During the next 120+ years, the National Civic League led major reforms in the way local communities were governed, including the professionalism of city services, the creation of the city manager system, the nonpartisan makeup of many local elected bodies, electoral reform and inclusive civic engagement. No history of American politics and civic engagement would be complete without a chapter on the National Civic League.

Here are a few of the milestones from this period of work by the National Civic League:

1894
Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, Frederick Law Olmsted, Mary Mumford and other leading municipal reformers gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the future of city government.
1898
National Civic League developed the first “Municipal Plan” to give more power and autonomy to local officials, a city council with nonpartisan elections, and a hands-on mayor.
1900
Galveston, Texas was the first community to adopt the “city commission” form of government
1910
The concept of employing a professional manager for city departments was developed by Richard S. Childs.It was first implemented in Sumter, South Carolina.
1912
First issue of the National Municipal Review (later the National Civic Review) published.
1930
By this year, one in every 5 cities with populations over 10,000 adopted the Model City Charter plan.
1930
National Civic League acted as the premier civic engagement group researching, advocating, publishing and consulting on civic engagement applications like voter registration, election administration, state constitutions, etc.
1949
The All-America City contest was born. Based on the annual tradition of naming a team of All-American football players, the All-America City Award initially sought to recognize 11 outstanding communities, before settling on the current 10 per year.
1980
Began research, education and publications to advance civic infrastructure.
1990
National Civic League helps to spearhead the “civic renewal movement”.
2000
Strengthened focus on issues, such as environment, racial equity, immigrant integration, transportation, fisual sustainability.

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