Governing a Boomburb: Guiding Cary's Growth Into The Future

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2023-04-21

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Abstract

What lessons can Cary draw on from Boomburbs around the country to best navigate the governance challenges associated with this form of municipality?

Boomburbs are municipalities which have a population of more than 100,000 people and which have grown at a double-digit rate for multiple decades yet remain only the second largest community in their metropolitan area. This report explores the above policy question by highlighting common demographic and governance characteristics of Boomburbs and identifying how Cary aligns with these descriptors. It then utilizes a qualitative research methodology informed by interviews with Boomburb council members and city managers to gather insights on Cary and four other comparable Boomburbs from across the country.

This research revealed several common themes between Cary and its peer Boomburbs. Decisions from state legislatures altered political influences in elections within all communities. Several municipalities had well-tenured council bodies guiding their growth and success. Strategic planning and mechanisms to increase citizen engagement in government were common across Boomburbs. Cary stood apart from its fellow Boomburbs, however, by maintaining its identity as a “town” despite its leading growth rate. Cary included more partisan identifiers for current council members in online town materials than other case study locations. The town had the most tenured yet lowest paid town or city council of all five Boomburbs.

Promoting pathways to leadership spanning from Cary’s citizen academy to the town council would increase the likelihood that new leaders are prepared to continue on Cary’s current level of excellence and foster greater and more diverse community engagement at higher levels of local government. Combining these pathways with strategies to expand professional development opportunities for government staff and utilize strategic management to establish a unified vision across the town would further fuel Cary’s future success as a Boomburb.

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Hager, William (2023). Governing a Boomburb: Guiding Cary's Growth Into The Future. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27093.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.