The Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayoral-led effort comprised of 68 river mayors committed to creating a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River, is now an independent nonprofit. Since its inception three years ago, MRCTI has operated under the tutelage of the Northeast-Midwest Institute.

“We have reached a major milestone. As planned, we have achieved the autonomy to carry our effort forward after three years of incubation within the Northeast-Midwest Institute,” said MRCTI Co-Chair A. C. Wharton, mayor of Memphis, in announcing the change. “The Institute’s vision and mentorship enabled us to develop into a sustainable entity, and we thank them for their invaluable commitment to us and the River.”

“MRCTI is well-positioned to continue advocating for the Mississippi River, which is America’s original Main Street. Many exciting challenges lay ahead, and as America’s ‘elected entrepreneurs,’ we will find a way to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our nation’s greatest waterway,” added MRCTI Co-Chair Roy Buol, mayor of Dubuque.

In preparation for this phase and to be closer to its constituents, MRCTI moved its headquarters to St. Louis from Washington, DC late last year. Colin Wellenkamp—who has been the staff leader of MRCTI since it started—will continue as executive director and will be based out of St. Louis.

MRCTI is an effort to bring national attention back to the Mississippi River—America’s most critical natural asset—and cultivate a new level of regional cooperation to make it more sustainable. As the ecological linchpin to the 37-state Mississippi River Basin, the river is responsible for creating $200 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of the nation’s agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting one million jobs and millions more indirectly.

In the past three years, MRCTI has been successful at uniting various stakeholders to protect and plan for the river, the organizations claims. Victories include:

  • Establishment of a sustainable development fund for cities.
  • $200 million in President’s FY 2016 budget for  pre-disaster mitigation grants.
  • Preserved drinking water SRFs above $2 billion.
  • Re-linked conservation compliance with crop insurance premium subsidies.
  • Secured a project designation within the Department of Transportation to return container movement to the Mississippi River.
  • Shepherded a comprehensive partnership agreement between 18 community foundations along the Mississippi River and seven World Trade Centers.
  • Worked with the U.S. House and Senate to form the Mississippi River Caucus, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral congressional group that collaborates with the mayors in addressing issues impacting the river.

Leaders of MRCTI members are urging more mayors in the Mississippi River Basin to join them and attend the MRCTI’s annual meeting in Dubuque, Sept. 15-17, 2015. More information about MRCTI is at www.mrcti.org

MRCTI Executive Committee

Dave Kleis, mayor of St. Cloud, Minn.

Francis Slay, mayor of St. Louis, Mo.

Tim Kabat, mayor of La Crosse, Wis.

David Lattus (Secretary), mayor of Hickman, Ky.

Roy Buol (Co-Chair), mayor of Dubuque, Iowa

AC Wharton (Co-Chair), mayor of Memphis, Tenn.

Mark Vulich (Treasurer), mayor of Clinton, Iowa             

Dickie Kennemore, mayor of Osceola, Ark.

Tom Thompson, mayor of Grafton, Ill.                          

Larry ‘Butch’ Brown, mayor of Natchez, Miss.

Jo Anne Smiley, mayor of Clarksville, Mo.                    

Hyram Copeland, mayor of Vidalia, La.