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Joplin City Council Member Picked for National Leadership Role

City of Joplin

A Joplin City Council member has been named head of a national organization.  Melodee Colbert-Kean is the first Missouri city official in more than 50 years to be appointed president of the National League of Cities. She’ll serve a one-year term, representing more than 19,000 cities and towns. According to the Missouri Municipal League, Colbert-Kean will represent Missouri while meeting with national leaders in Congress and abroad.

NLC officers are selected by a 15-member nominating committee and are elected by NLC’s membership.

In her leadership role, Colbert-Kean plans to focus on NLC’s top three challenges for cities: crumbling infrastructure, e-fairness/marketplace fairness and continuing tax-exempt municipal bonds.

“Cities and the communities they serve are on the front lines of the issues that fuel American success. We are the first adopters of innovation and have been the leaders in economic recovery,” said Colbert-Kean "I am honored and thrilled to serve as National League of Cities president. Over the next year, the National League of Cities will work to ensure every local government knows that they have a place within our organization. I look forward to continuing to grow our membership and ensure that the priorities that matter the most to cities are at the forefront of federal policy.”

Colbert-Kean was first elected in 2006 as a representative of Joplin’s Zone 2. Together with her husband William Kean, Jr., she is the owner of MEs Place Soul Food Kitchen.

In 2011, Joplin experienced an EF5 tornado, which claimed the lives of 161 people and devastated homes, businesses and churches in the community. According to the National League of Cities, as she spoke about the tornado, Colbert-Kean said, “In those hours and days after a disaster you learn exactly what you need to know about the citizens in your community – that everyday people do extraordinary things.”

In the wake of the disaster, Colbert-Kean was elected mayor, becoming Missouri’s first female African American mayor and the first African American mayor of Joplin. She served in that role for two years.

Missouri has had two other mayors in NLC leadership. Mayor Raymond R. Tucker, St. Louis, served as president in 1960 and Mayor W.F. Kemp, Kansas City, was president in 1954.