In early December, Charlotte, N.C., City Council Member James Mitchell was elected president of the Washington-based National League of Cities (NLC). In his acceptance speech, Mitchell said he would announce new initiatives in five key areas: sustainability, immigration, small business development, transportation and infrastructure improvement, and economic development with a focus on creating jobs. Mitchell talked to American City & County in more detail about those initiatives, how NLC will help members weather the recession and the recent political shift in Washington.

Q: What are some of the initiatives you will introduce to NLC members in 2011?

[For] the first initiative, we will continue to work with small businesses and try to engage and make sure small businesses can build capacity, have access to capital and have opportunities. [Another] initiative is to continue to work through what we call 'immigration to integration,' and that is a program we're trying to really implement that would allow this immigration issue to become more of a positive. We need to embrace diversity, as opposed to making it a divisive issue for us. Another initiative is, we're doing the CVS Caremark [program, which provides free or reduced cost prescription drugs to uninsured residents of participating cities]. Right now, the total savings have been $2 million from all the 492 cities that participate in that program. My goal is to reach the $10 million mark.

Q: What do you plan to do to get more NLC members involved in the organization?

For one thing, at NLC, we have a new theme song, ["We are NLC."] I want to engage the members more on several levels. One area is to make sure that all members who want to be involved serve on the steering committee or a policy committee. Secondly, I want to make sure that every elected official can partner with our corporate partners to find solutions for the issues they are facing in their communities.