Welcome to the next match-up in the third annual Strongest Town Competition! In this round, 16 towns are facing off and 8 will advance to the next segment of the contest based on your votes.

We invite you to read the answers that representatives from these two towns provided to questions about economic resilience, citizen involvement, land use and more, then vote for the strongest. Can't decide? Read commentaries by Strong Towns members to help inform you choice here.

Voting closes at 12pm CT on Friday, March 9.


 Source: Leesha Faulkner

Source: Leesha Faulkner

Tupelo, MS

Entry submitted by: Leesha Faulkner, Hannah Maharrey, and KC Grist

How are residents in your town involved in the life of the community? Share a few examples of times when residents came together to work on a project or make decisions about the future of the town.

We have something called Tupelo Spirit. Residents come together to self tax to improve infrastructure - streets; create a Police Advisory Board; create a public transportation pilot system; improve quality of live through events with volunteers working with city officials; care for the homeless through combining resources instead of working in silos.

 At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for longterm prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that theyll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

Our city's CFO conservatively projects sales tax revenue. When those receipts exceed expectations (good times) that money is put into a capital fund. City officials plan capital projects out for five years, thus ensuring pay-as-you go. In addition, the city has $18 million in reserves that hasn't been touched in more than a decade. The city's mantra is no new debt; no tax increase , pay as you go. infrastructure is constantly monitored and graded, with the worst being cared for each year, thus taking politics out of the issue.

If we took a walking tour through your town what would we see? How does your community use its land to the fullest?

You would see pristine parks in every neighborhood, a vibrant, clean downtown, sidewalks and bike trails, trees and greenery. You'll see hives of commercial activity and well-kept residential areas; good, solid public schools and lots of community events.

At Strong Towns we believe transportation investments are a means to an end not an end in themselves. How is your city using transportation investments to make your community more successful?

Just recently, our city began to consider public transportation. The Council set aside $225,000 for a 15-month pilot public transportation system in collaboration with a group that already runs an on-call system for those needing transportation. We expect to have the pilot system in place by the final quarter this year. Additionally, every five years, local voters decide on a program of street building and maintenance of major corridors by leveling an extra 10 mill tax on themselves. We are in Phase VI of the Major Thoroughfare Program (30th year). This above and beyond the usual programmed maintenance by the city

We have many local businesses whose owners and workers volunteer on city committees or to help support city-sponsored events. We couldn’t do without this sense of volunteerism.

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players big and small and how do they help your town to be financially strong? What local businesses are you most proud of?

Toyota Manufacturing Mississippi has helped our public schools, beautification efforts, volunteers for clean-up days, celebrations; North Mississippi Medical Center provides health checks throughout the community as well as other services; BancorpSouth and Renasant Banks support various projects through the year, including festivals, scholarships. We have many local businesses whose owners and workers volunteer on city committees or to help support city-sponsored events. We couldn't do without this sense of volunteerism.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

The people. There's a sense of 'we are all in this together" and we roll up our sleeves to make Tupelo a better place in which to live. We come together to support city efforts - for example, after a tornado hit us in 2014, wiping out 1/4 of the city, more than 2000 volunteers showed up the next day to help those in distress. That's not unusual. That's the Tupelo Spirit - our people. You are born with it if you are a native; you catch it, if you move here. Come, let us show you.


 Source: Andrea May

Source: Andrea May

Annapolis, Maryland

Entry submitted by: Eric Borchers, Sally Nash, and Hollis Minor

How are residents in your town involved in the life of the community? Share a few examples of times when residents came together to work on a project or make decisions about the future of the town.

The City has 27 boards or commissions that are made up of engaged resident volunteers. Many of the members of these boards and commissions frequently testify at City Council meetings. For the Forest Drive Sector Study: Hundreds of residents have participated in intimately-sized as well as open house-style meetings with City staff and leaders to inform decision-makers of the issues present in an area that represents two-thirds of the land of the City - specifically pertaining to transportation, land use, the environment and housing. Those same residents together with many others contributed ideas on how to resolve the many problems that impact their quality of life. A new working group, “Eastport Working Together,” has recently formed. This group is a joint effort between the police department and the community to tackle tough issues, such as safety, mental health, and drug use. 

At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for longterm prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that theyll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

By virtue of precise budgetary procedures and financial safeguarding, City budgets are always balanced and generally flat from one year to the next. Preservation and enhancement of valuable assets has been an increasing emphasis over recent years versus growing costly assets like owner-occupied housing developments for instance. Economic development in the City has been revamped with a shifted focus toward small business development, business revitalization, and place-making to preserve and enhance the economic base. The Historic Preservation division has interfaced flood protection from sea-level rise and storm surge, inherent to Annapolis, into its role of protecting the historic downtown. In fact, we have placed prudent measures to prevent financial loss throughout City operations. Also, City leaders/officials accurately calculate needed funds for proposed new investments to make sure we can afford them now and in the future.

If we took a walking tour through your town what would we see? How does your community use its land to the fullest?

We use our land to its fullest by preserving and restoring our historical and cultural landmarks, redeveloping underutilized sites for more economically and visually opportunistic uses, and clustering development into the least sensitive areas to conserve inland and coastal environments. On a tour of Annapolis, you would see:

State House and St. Anne’s Church - St Anne’s sits in one prominent downtown circle and watching over the City in the other, is the State House, the seat of government and the oldest such capitol building in continuous use in the U.S.

Inner West St. - Inner West Street’s dynamic blend of commercial, professional, cultural and residential elements provides a gateway to a vital legislative and judicial hub, circuit and district courthouses, high-end hotels and a number of office buildings.

Historic Downtown - For 350 years, history, hospitality and architecture have drawn tourists, world-class boaters and dignitaries from across the globe to downtown. Its unique mix of stately historic homes, brick streets, charming boutiques and sidewalk cafes, stunning harbor, government offices, and revered academic institutions have turned visitors into residents for centuries.

City Dock - In its early days, a thriving shipping industry brought great wealth to Annapolis. The Chesapeake Bay still plays a major role in commerce, although today the City is more of a boating, fishing, sailing and racing hub.

Historic landmarks - all four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence had impressive homes in Annapolis, which still stand.

St. John’s College - St. John’s is the third oldest college in the United States and its distinctive liberal arts curriculum and educational practices have long given it a highly respected place among American institutions.

Naval Academy - The Naval Academy is the second oldest of the five federal service academies. Students, known as midshipmen, are on active duty in the Navy while they are educated and trained as future officers of competence, character, and compassion.

Eastport - Sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as strong community spirit and quality of life that blend historical with nautical, make Eastport one of the top destinations in Annapolis.

We use our land to its fullest by preserving and restoring our historical and cultural landmarks, redeveloping underutilized sites for more economically and visually opportunistic uses, and clustering development into the least sensitive areas to conserve inland and coastal environments.

At Strong Towns we believe transportation investments are a means to an end not an end in themselves. How is your city using transportation investments to make your community more successful?

The City has directed its transportation investments into reducing auto trips and dependency on personal vehicles. A circulator that connects parking garages and popular destinations has been made free for anyone visiting downtown. We are working on a more sophisticated traffic model to predict multimodal impacts for development projects in the future. On the pedestrian side, we are working to bring bike share opportunities to the City and encouraging developers to supplement projects with increased pedestrian safety and infrastructure. We continue to implement recommendations in our Bicycle Master Plan through the Capital Improvement Program. When the Public Works department repaves a road, as a policy, they add sharrows for bicycle use, whenever possible.

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players big and small and how do they help your town to be financially strong? What local businesses are you most proud of?

Planned, designed and built as a Capital City over three hundred years ago, the golden threads of Annapolis’ heritage: government, education, maritime, hospitality, and leisure industries, continue to prosper today. In addition, a vibrant mix of technology, retail, professional and healthcare services has added a wealth of diversity to the City’s economic vitality, a mix that protects the City from the devastating impact of potentially losing one primary industry. Annapolis’ reach extends beyond city limits, attracting businesses from around the globe. Many companies, varying widely in size and industry focus, have chosen to locate in this busy hub that is situated within 35 miles of Washington DC, and Baltimore MD, with excellent highway systems connecting to both cities. Proximity and easy access to three major airports, including BWI Airport, as well as the Port of Baltimore make Annapolis a small city with major amenities and global reach. Local businesses we’re most proud of:

Light House Bistro - With help from the City, the Light House Shelter repurposed its former homeless shelter into a hospitality training center. It is a self-sustaining and revenue-generating social enterprise providing living wage employment for those experiencing homelessness and trains them for sustainable jobs.

Rams Head Tavern - Initially, the tavern had a mere 30 inside seats with only 10 on the patio and 5 full time employees. It offered 100 beers from around the world and the only food available was build-your-own sandwich option. Today, Ram’s Head is a local institution. It has grown into a full service restaurant, and the adjacent Rams Head On Stage draws the top regional and national recording acts, making it one of the biggest music destinations in the area.

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts - Dedicated to Art for All, Maryland Hall is the community’s arts center, providing lifelong, accessible engagement in the arts. It actively engages the community in innovative, creative endeavors in arts education and the performing and visual arts. Today, the historic building is the community's gathering place, with year-round classes, performances, exhibits, tours, workshops and demonstrations for people of all ages.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Through historic preservation and careful planning in neighborhoods that span the centuries, the City offers a unique small-town quality of life with historical and maritime charm, yet also provides big-City style and modern amenities. Annapolis offers a great variety of excellent dining and entertainment options but it is still small enough that it’s easy to find a place for yourself in the community. From its earliest days as a colonial capital city, Annapolis was known as the “Athens of America” due to its wealth of cultural activities, a glittering social season, gracious hospitality and intellectual stimulation. More than 300 years of welcoming visitors has made our hospitality second to none. You will find the same welcoming atmosphere today, drawing more than 4 million people a year to the City’s shores to indulge in our historic architecture, world-renowned cuisine, thriving maritime amenities and diverse cultural arts activities. Whether you come for the history, education, water or hospitality, there is always something happening in Annapolis for you to enjoy.


Voting is now closed.