Best-run cities in America

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Best-run cities in America

The federal government directed billions in assistance to local governments during the coronavirus pandemic so they would not have to cut essential services just as residents needed them most. Now those governments are wrestling with the fallout from exceptionally high inflation, including the increasing costs of services, materials, and labor.

Cities and towns throughout the United States vary drastically in terms of how well they are managed and operated on a daily and yearly basis. Cities that work efficiently and effectively usually have stronger economies, lower crime rates, and higher median annual incomes.

Some of the best-run American cities, such as Fargo, North Dakota; Huntington Beach, California; and Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky, offer opportunities for economic growth and education, which in turn increases the quality of services and quality of life for their residents. These best-run cities also tend to attract young professionals and older, more experienced professionals looking to start or advance their careers.

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Stacker listed the 50 best-run U.S. cities using 2023 data from WalletHub’s Best- and Worst-Run Cities in America. Cities are ranked by their overall operating efficiency, which is determined by the quality of services and total budget per capita.

Factors used to determine the overall quality of city services comprise weighted average scores in six key categories, including financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution.

Click through to learn more about America’s best-run cities.

An aerial view of Corpus Christi Bay.


#50. Corpus Christi, Texas

– Quality of city services rank: 88
– Financial stability rank: 75
– Education rank: 39
– Health rank: 91
– Safety rank: 88
– Economy rank: 93
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 136

Corpus Christi has marketed itself as a tourist destination, and its efforts are paying off. Visitors generate $30 million in sales tax revenue each year, which the city is using to hire police officers and firefighters, fix roads, and improve a waterfront park. Its mayor and city council are elected but its manager carries out policies.

An aerial view of Colorado Springs in the mountains.


#49. Colorado Springs, Colorado

– Quality of city services rank: 60
– Financial stability rank: 71
– Education rank: 46
– Health rank: 104
– Safety rank: 59
– Economy rank: 15
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 115

A hub for small businesses owned by veterans opened in Colorado Springs in July 2023 to provide counseling, training, and mentoring. The state has more than 48,000 veteran-owned businesses. Colorado Springs has a mayor and city council.

El Paso skyline.

Frontpage // Shutterstock

#48. El Paso, Texas

– Quality of city services rank: 45
– Financial stability rank: 119
– Education rank: 15
– Health rank: 59
– Safety rank: 16
– Economy rank: 69
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 116

The council of El Paso, Texas, comprises eight district members and one mayor. Despite its proximity to the violence-plagued Mexican border, El Paso has lower violent crime and property crime rates than similarly sized metropolitan areas, which explains why this city ranks highly in safety.

A welcome sign for Fairbanks in the snow.


#47. Fairbanks, Alaska

– Quality of city services rank: 105
– Financial stability rank: 18
– Education rank: 141
– Health rank: 35
– Safety rank: 67
– Economy rank: 106
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 69

Fairbanks achieved its high rating despite some challenges. Its air pollution has been unusually high, and its water is contaminated by toxic PFAS chemicals, known as forever chemicals and found in food packaging, fire fighting foam, and many other products.

The Environmental Protection Agency is providing $18 million to clean up contaminants in drinking water across the state. Fairbanks has a mayor and city council.

An aerial view of Salem.


#46. Salem, Oregon

– Quality of city services rank: 44
– Financial stability rank: 72
– Education rank: 66
– Health rank: 22
– Safety rank: 64
– Economy rank: 81
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 79

Salem’s high-quality services come at a cost and city officials are warning that spending is exceeding revenue. The city’s five-year financial forecast shows both the general fund and the transportation fund—which together account for about a quarter of the budget—running out of reserves by 2028. Federal pandemic-aid funding had been used to make up the shortfall.

In 2019, the city announced it would spend more than $75 million to guard against toxic algae in drinking water and prevent a repeat of an earlier drinking water crisis.

An aerial view of Tulsa.


#45. Tulsa, Oklahoma

– Quality of city services rank: 110
– Financial stability rank: 29
– Education rank: 78
– Health rank: 115
– Safety rank: 138
– Economy rank: 60
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 108

The city’s mayor urged residents and officials alike in June 2023 to continue to make progress in areas that have brought success—among them regional employment, technology, and cooperation with surrounding communities. The city is home to electric vehicle manufacturing and hopes tourism booms on the Arkansas River. It has a mayor-council government.

A railroad track and buildings.

Guy RD // Shutterstock

#44. Fargo, North Dakota

– Quality of city services rank: 31
– Financial stability rank: 100
– Education rank: 20
– Health rank: 34
– Safety rank: 41
– Economy rank: 71
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 40

Fargo has one of the best elementary and secondary education systems in the United States, putting this city ninth in the education category. The share of people living in Fargo who have more than a high school education is 95% above the national average of 89%, and the city places a significant emphasis on its educational services.

Boats on the water.

gary yim // Shutterstock

#43. Portland, Maine

– Quality of city services rank: 5
– Financial stability rank: 36
– Education rank: 79
– Health rank: 20
– Safety rank: 3
– Economy rank: 18
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 4

Portland has worked to make its community a center of innovation, improve people’s lives, and build a more efficient communication platform between the government and its people. The city has installed LED streetlights, smart traffic signals, and public Wi-Fi service.

The Louisville skyline from a park across the water.


#42. Louisville, Kentucky

– Quality of city services rank: 99
– Financial stability rank: 47
– Education rank: 103
– Health rank: 127
– Safety rank: 101
– Economy rank: 105
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 77

Louisville Metro Government’s Department of Economic Development was responsible for more than 50 economic development projects in 2022. The projects resulted in nearly 3,700 new jobs for Louisville and Jefferson County, with an average annual salary of $61,910. The project brought in $2.1 billion in capital investment. Louisville has a mayor who serves as the chief executive and a city council.

A park in Bridgeport.


#41. Bridgeport, Connecticut

– Quality of city services rank: 92
– Financial stability rank: 138
– Education rank: 117
– Health rank: 3
– Safety rank: 17
– Economy rank: 146
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 62

Bridgeport’s anti-blight campaign encourages residents to maintain their homes, build relationships with their neighbors, get involved in community events, and report abandoned or unkept property to the city. Bridgeport is governed by a mayor and a city council.

A palm tree and tall buildings.


#40. Phoenix, Arizona

– Quality of city services rank: 46
– Financial stability rank: 35
– Education rank: 93
– Health rank: 61
– Safety rank: 104
– Economy rank: 5
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 67

Phoenix sweltered through an unprecedented heat wave with temperatures at or above 110 degrees in July 2023, breaking a string of records. In 2021, the city created an Office of Heat Response and Mitigation to tackle the public health and environmental challenges of extreme heat. Phoenix has a council-manager form of government.

Historic downtown Topeka.


#39. Topeka, Kansas

– Quality of city services rank: 106
– Financial stability rank: 97
– Education rank: 86
– Health rank: 113
– Safety rank: 117
– Economy rank: 89
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 20

To entice more new workers to Topeka, the city in 2023 broadened its $15,000 relocation incentive. The money can be put toward buying a home or paying for childcare expenses if the new residents work in person for a local company.

Veterans and previous residents returning to the area are eligible for a $5,000 incentive. The program supports local employers, addresses the low unemployment rate of 3.5%, and helps the economy to grow. Topeka is run by a city council and a manager.

St. Petersburg skyline and harbor.


#38. St. Petersburg, Florida

– Quality of city services rank: 18
– Financial stability rank: 94
– Education rank: 6
– Health rank: 74
– Safety rank: 70
– Economy rank: 1
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 33

The number of homicides in St. Petersburg jumped in 2021, but by the next year had dropped by nearly 43% through June, when the city recorded nine homicides. By the end of 2022, there were 16 deaths compared to 33 the year before. The city created a special investigation team of five detectives who respond within 48 hours to shootings. The city is governed by a mayor and city council.

Buildings in Worcester.


#37. Worcester, Massachusetts

– Quality of city services rank: 41
– Financial stability rank: 91
– Education rank: 88
– Health rank: 28
– Safety rank: 26
– Economy rank: 111
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 58

Students and staff have complained that the schools in the city do not have enough mental health resources, even after the coronavirus pandemic. The $847.7 million budget proposed for the 2024 fiscal year had to fill a $6 million deficit. Worcester, which has a council-manager form of government, had taken in an additional $20 million in revenue, but costs to run the city had risen.

An aerial view of Mobile.


#36. Mobile, Alabama

– Quality of city services rank: 108
– Financial stability rank: 55
– Education rank: 61
– Health rank: 141
– Safety rank: 120
– Economy rank: 58
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 43

Mobile’s budget for its 2023 fiscal year includes $63 million for its Capital Improvement Program. The money will be used for upgrades to sidewalks and streets, traffic lights, drainage, and parks. The Road to Work program employs homeless men and women to pick up litter in the city. Mobile is governed by a mayor and a city council.

Colorful hexagons lining the street in Greensboro.


#35. Greensboro, North Carolina

– Quality of city services rank: 66
– Financial stability rank: 6
– Education rank: 40
– Health rank: 117
– Safety rank: 107
– Economy rank: 84
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 126

Greensboro proposed a 1% tax on prepared food and beverages to improve the city’s appeal to tourists. But restaurant and bar owners say the city should tackle crime and business-permit delays first. Greensboro has a mayor, a council, and a city manager.

A waterfront park.

Stony River // Shutterstock

#34. Huntington, West Virginia

– Quality of city services rank: 115
– Financial stability rank: 5
– Education rank: 59
– Health rank: 134
– Safety rank: 84
– Economy rank: 128
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 35

Huntington’s proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year includes what is being called historic allocations for its police and fire departments. It also sets aside money to demolish dilapidated and unsafe buildings and renovate a historic theater. The city has a mayor and a city council.

Madison on the water.

Joe Ferer // Shutterstock

#33. Madison, Wisconsin

– Quality of city services rank: 14
– Financial stability rank: 11
– Education rank: 87
– Health rank: 14
– Safety rank: 23
– Economy rank: 102
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 75

Madison ranks highly in the financial stability category and is a sizable city with a great deal of opportunity for business development, through sustainability and economic development projects. The city council comprises 20 district council members and one mayor, and oversees many aspects of the city.

An aerial view of Warren.

Matthew G. Eddy // Shutterstock

#32. Warren, Michigan

– Quality of city services rank: 73
– Financial stability rank: 66
– Education rank: 83
– Health rank: 103
– Safety rank: 10
– Economy rank: 123
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 51

The city adopted its first anti-discrimination law in July 2023 after the Bangladeshi Association of Michigan said Warren had denied its request for a festival. Warren has a mayor and a city council, who have been at odds over Warren’s budget for the past three years.

A rocky shoreline with the Lewiston skyline in the background.


#31. Lewiston, Maine

– Quality of city services rank: 50
– Financial stability rank: 93
– Education rank: 146
– Health rank: 108
– Safety rank: 14
– Economy rank: 12
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 34

When Lewiston passed its municipal budget for 2024, officials warned that a large increase in costs was forcing the city to make tough decisions about allocating its funds. It drew $11 million from its rainy day fund, a withdrawal it will not be able to repeat next year. The schools had to cut 61 positions, but two-thirds of those were already vacant.

The end of COVID-19 funding will result in other cuts. Lewiston has a mayor and city council, who disagree over how active the mayor should be during debates.

Downtown Tucson skyline.


#30. Tucson, Arizona

– Quality of city services rank: 95
– Financial stability rank: 90
– Education rank: 101
– Health rank: 69
– Safety rank: 119
– Economy rank: 45
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 99

Tucson is spending $1 million in the coming year to alleviate the effects of climate change. Another $12 million from a federal grant will go toward cutting carbon emissions from cars and other vehicles. The city has a council-manager form of government.

Columbus on the water.


#29. Columbus, Georgia

– Quality of city services rank: 118
– Financial stability rank: 46
– Education rank: 64
– Health rank: 149
– Safety rank: 98
– Economy rank: 110
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 68

The most recent federal budget includes $4 million for a science and math education collaboration between Columbus State University and the Muscogee County School District. A space science center will be expanded, giving school children greater access to robotics programs and other technology and engineering education. Columbus has a mayor, city council, and city manager.

A blue bridge in front of tall buildings.

RazorbackAlum // Shutterstock

#28. Grand Rapids, Michigan

– Quality of city services rank: 24
– Financial stability rank: 64
– Education rank: 26
– Health rank: 48
– Safety rank: 36
– Economy rank: 75
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 12

The Grand Rapids council comprises seven elected officials, including the city’s first female mayor as of 2016. It has a lower-than-average crime rate, which is reflected in its relatively high ranking in safety. While the city hasn’t always been safe, over the years, crime rates have come down significantly.

A transportation center with the Albuquerque skyline in the background.


#27. Albuquerque, New Mexico

– Quality of city services rank: 111
– Financial stability rank: 92
– Education rank: 100
– Health rank: 62
– Safety rank: 144
– Economy rank: 42
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 39

Albuquerque schools continue to focus on improving, with such goals as increasing third-grade language proficiency rates and eighth-grade math proficiency rates by 10% over the next five years. In 2018, a judge ruled that New Mexico was not providing sufficient education to Native American children, English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged children, and students with disabilities.

Downtown Mesa.


#26. Mesa, Arizona

– Quality of city services rank: 39
– Financial stability rank: 59
– Education rank: 48
– Health rank: 64
– Safety rank: 37
– Economy rank: 7
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 142

Mesa is adding more than 200 employees to its rolls but some citizens are worried the city is spending too much. They are urging the city government to cut its budget. City officials say inflation, the city’s growth, and the presence of two airports, requires the current level of funding. Mesa is run by a mayor and city council.

A stone bridge and buildings.

Eddie J. Rodriquez // Shutterstock

#25. Aurora, Illinois

– Quality of city services rank: 23
– Financial stability rank: 116
– Education rank: 19
– Health rank: 25
– Safety rank: 5
– Economy rank: 83
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 109

The city council of Aurora comprises 12 officials: 10 elected ward members and two at-large members, as well as a mayor. This city ranks high in the education category, and with Chicago nearby, those who graduate have many options for higher education close to home.

An aerial view of Billings.

David Harmantas // Shutterstock

#24. Billings, Montana

– Quality of city services rank: 101
– Financial stability rank: 51
– Education rank: 105
– Health rank: 125
– Safety rank: 111
– Economy rank: 46
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 106

In recent years, Billings has allocated money to expand its airport, build a new water treatment plant, and improve roads. But its violent crime rate has been climbing, including homicides and home invasions.

The last three years have been the deadliest in Billings’ recent history, with 16 homicides in Yellowstone County in 2022. Also, there has been a marked increase in assaults with a firearm, sparking 60 calls to police in 2020 and increasing to 94 in 2022. Billings has a mayor and city council.

An aerial view of Cedar Rapids.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#23. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

– Quality of city services rank: 28
– Financial stability rank: 28
– Education rank: 69
– Health rank: 75
– Safety rank: 30
– Economy rank: 70
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 94

Cedar Rapids operates under a council-manager government with a nine-member part-time city council. Cedar Rapids has one of the most economically diverse cities in the Midwest, with affordable land and low business costs.

A statue of Poseidon on the boardwalk.

Sherry V Smith // Shutterstock

#22. Virginia Beach, Virginia

– Quality of city services rank: 3
– Financial stability rank: 9
– Education rank: 7
– Health rank: 77
– Safety rank: 8
– Economy rank: 23
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 107

Virginia Beach has one of the lowest poverty and violent crime rates in the nation. The city is also ranked in the top five for the highest median annual household income. The city has multiple committees to create and develop economic and business opportunities locally, nationally, and globally.

Lifeguard stands on Huntington Beach.

gabriel12 // Shutterstock

#21. Huntington Beach, California

– Quality of city services rank: 1
– Financial stability rank: 62
– Education rank: 2
– Health rank: 11
– Safety rank: 15
– Economy rank: 26
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 66

Huntington Beach, California, known for its surf beaches, has fresh air and an active community. This city ranks #11 in health. It also has an engaging business development office that focuses on promoting the city’s economic and business environment. The city ranks #2 in education and has over 50 private and public schools.

A full moon over boats in the harbor.

Nicole R Young // Shutterstock

#20. Chesapeake, Virginia

– Quality of city services rank: 10
– Financial stability rank: 3
– Education rank: 9
– Health rank: 65
– Safety rank: 20
– Economy rank: 30
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 141

Chesapeake focuses significant attention on economic development and is a stable location to open and develop a business, making this city ranked #3 and #30 in financial stability and economy, respectively.

The Raleigh skyline at night.

ESBprofessional // Shutterstock

#19. Raleigh, North Carolina

– Quality of city services rank: 13
– Financial stability rank: 12
– Education rank: 73
– Health rank: 26
– Safety rank: 32
– Economy rank: 13
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 89

The city council of Raleigh comprises seven council members and one mayor, Mary-Ann Baldwin. Raleigh’s strategic plan focuses on improving arts and cultural resources, economic development, and transportation.

A walking path on the Baton Rouge waterfront.


#18. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

– Quality of city services rank: 135
– Financial stability rank: 44
– Education rank: 108
– Health rank: 129
– Safety rank: 145
– Economy rank: 135
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 135

Baton Rouge is focused on improving public safety, transportation, economic development, and drainage. The most recent budget—for a consolidated Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish—includes an additional $500,000 to study drainage and traffic. Residents have complained about repeated flooding. The city’s mayor also is the president of the East Baton Rouge Parish.

A pioneer statue at the capitol building.

Ace Diamond // Shutterstock

#17. Bismarck, North Dakota

– Quality of city services rank: 25
– Financial stability rank: 27
– Education rank: 65
– Health rank: 38
– Safety rank: 31
– Economy rank: 95
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 73

Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital, has a history of citizens, government, businesses, and organizations working together to address critical local issues. Council and city department members focus on issues surrounding health, both within the community population and the environment, to improve residents’ quality of life.

An aerial view of Rapid City.


#16. Rapid City, South Dakota

– Quality of city services rank: 98
– Financial stability rank: 54
– Education rank: 110
– Health rank: 142
– Safety rank: 94
– Economy rank: 6
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 111

Rapid City officials attribute greater spending in the 2023 budget to inflation but also economic growth necessitating more city services. Among the increased allocations were for nonprofit organizations that provide street outreach and other services—which the city says saved more than $1 million in the first half of 2022. The city is governed by a mayor and a common council.

An aerial view of Wichita Kansas.


#15. Wichita, Kansas

– Quality of city services rank: 123
– Financial stability rank: 80
– Education rank: 121
– Health rank: 111
– Safety rank: 131
– Economy rank: 76
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 118

Wichita’s property tax rate has remained stable for almost 30 years, city officials say. But, holding the line on taxes comes at a price, and in the 2023 budget, funds for the city’s ice skating rink and its addiction recovery fund were cut. One good bit of news for avid readers: Overdue library fees were removed. The city has a commission-manager form of government.

The Durham skyline.


#14. Durham, North Carolina

– Quality of city services rank: 30
– Financial stability rank: 7
– Education rank: 41
– Health rank: 27
– Safety rank: 73
– Economy rank: 33
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 138

The city council of Durham, North Carolina, comprises three elected ward members, three at-large members, and a mayor. Durham is very invested in its future and has many strategic plans to support the city in continuously developing and improving, such as its Capital Improvement Plan. The city focuses on shared economic prosperity, which reflects its #7 ranking for financial stability.

Downtown Manchester.


#13. Manchester, New Hampshire

– Quality of city services rank: 47
– Financial stability rank: 89
– Education rank: 116
– Health rank: 36
– Safety rank: 46
– Economy rank: 62
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 22

The city of Manchester, known as New Hampshire’s business capital, is led by Manchester native Mayor Joyce Craig. This city ranks relatively high in health and safety and has a low unemployment rate.

A lighthouse in Warwick.

Anthony Ricci // Shutterstock

#12. Warwick, Rhode Island

– Quality of city services rank: 32
– Financial stability rank: 101
– Education rank: 42
– Health rank: 82
– Safety rank: 2
– Economy rank: 54
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 98

Warwick’s 2023 budget left the tax rate unchanged for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last five years. However, the city’s frugal spending plan left two city council members worried about future financial hardships when COVID-19 assistance funds run out.

Businesses are opening and expanding in Warwick, and housing is being built, according to the city council president. The city is governed by a mayor and city council.

An aerial view of Oklahoma City.


#11. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

– Quality of city services rank: 74
– Financial stability rank: 8
– Education rank: 81
– Health rank: 109
– Safety rank: 96
– Economy rank: 49
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 133

Oklahoma City is adding 119 positions as part of its 2024 municipal budget. Among them are police officers, firefighters, airport and utility workers, and maintenance and repair workers for the city’s buses. The city is funding non-police responses to emergency calls involving the city’s homeless population. Oklahoma City has a council-manager form of government.

A pedestrian bridge in downtown Missoula.


#10. Missoula, Montana

– Quality of city services rank: 62
– Financial stability rank: 115
– Education rank: 68
– Health rank: 57
– Safety rank: 60
– Economy rank: 17
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 82

Missoula has been focused on keeping and recruiting staff and has been raising salaries to try to make sure staff can live in Missoula County.

It has allocated $20 million for capital projects, including $16.6 million in bonds to help build the Rocky Mountain Gardens and Exploration Center, a science and agriculture learning project, and renovations to make the city’s voting center more easily accessible to residents with disabilities. Missoula has a mayor and city council.

Green plants in front of Las Cruces City Hall.


#9. Las Cruces, New Mexico

– Quality of city services rank: 61
– Financial stability rank: 52
– Education rank: 77
– Health rank: 100
– Safety rank: 52
– Economy rank: 94
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 83

Las Cruces’ current city budget is the largest in its history at $519 million. The city is funding an additional 20 police officers and has prioritized pedestrian safety. Las Cruces has a higher pedestrian fatality rate than the national average, though questions have arisen about how data is collected.

Residents of Camp Hope—an encampment for people without housing approved by the city—have been struggling during the heatwave of 2023 as temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. The city is governed through a council-manager structure.

An abstract brown building.

Lost_in_the_Midwest // Shutterstock

#8. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

– Quality of city services rank: 27
– Financial stability rank: 53
– Education rank: 53
– Health rank: 41
– Safety rank: 44
– Economy rank: 21
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 88

Sioux Falls focuses its investments on improving its community by actively looking for talented individuals to recruit to its financial services, building infrastructure to enhance its residents’ quality of life, and enhancing its financial position.

An aerial view of Fort Wayne.


#7. Fort Wayne, Indiana

– Quality of city services rank: 65
– Financial stability rank: 20
– Education rank: 54
– Health rank: 132
– Safety rank: 42
– Economy rank: 41
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 133

Purdue University’s proposed music technology building on the Fort Wayne campus is receiving $15 million in the new state budget. The city has been making investments in neighborhood infrastructure—streets, bridges, sidewalks, and alleys—as well as in its police and departments, and in its parks.

A stone building.

Danita Delmont // Shutterstock

#6. Lincoln, Nebraska

– Quality of city services rank: 22
– Financial stability rank: 2
– Education rank: 71
– Health rank: 54
– Safety rank: 19
– Economy rank: 73
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 114

Lincoln’s police department provides public access to city-wide data and statistics including daily call summaries, crime alerts, and a crime mapping website. Its most recent budget boosts city spending while lowering the property tax rate.

Provo at night.

Nick Spinder // Shutterstock

#5. Provo, Utah

– Quality of city services rank: 6
– Financial stability rank: 24
– Education rank: 29
– Health rank: 32
– Safety rank: 9
– Economy rank: 29
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 65

Provo has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the United States, placing this city at #9 in the safety rankings. Provo is also known as a great place to start a business and raise a family, with strong educational and economic ratings.

The Boise skyline with snowy mountains in the background.

Benjamin Clapp // Shutterstock

#4. Boise, Idaho

– Quality of city services rank: 9
– Financial stability rank: 43
– Education rank: 30
– Health rank: 44
– Safety rank: 6
– Economy rank: 4
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 92

Boise has a mayor-council form of government, in which the mayor works full-time and only votes in case of a tie, and six council members that work part-time. This council committed to having the city government be carbon-neutral by 2035, and the rest of the city by 2050.

A bridge going into Nashua.

John Bilous // Shutterstock

#3. Nashua, New Hampshire

– Quality of city services rank: 4
– Financial stability rank: 21
– Education rank: 49
– Health rank: 40
– Safety rank: 1
– Economy rank: 36
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 38

Nashua has an extremely active and strong police department that prioritizes community-oriented policing by working with the city’s residents. The city government has been recognized for how well it welcomes immigrants, including through an annual week-long festival of cross-cultural celebrations and events.

Downtown Lexington.


#2. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

– Quality of city services rank: 42
– Financial stability rank: 56
– Education rank: 14
– Health rank: 79
– Safety rank: 45
– Economy rank: 78
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 128

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government is rebuilding itself. It’s constructing a new government center, a second senior center, and a new training center for its police and firefighters, and it is developing property along the Kentucky River.

The city is also expanding its boundaries, opening thousands of acres for the construction of homes and businesses to accommodate an influx of residents expected in the coming years.

An aerial view of Nampa.

Ninzie // Shutterstock

#1. Nampa, Idaho

– Quality of city services rank: 34
– Financial stability rank: 77
– Education rank: 135
– Health rank: 45
– Safety rank: 7
– Economy rank: 9
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 110

Nampa, west of Boise, is governed by a mayor and a six-member city council. The city has launched a grant program to encourage people to open or expand restaurants in the downtown area. City leaders are also grappling with the need for more housing to handle expected growth, and existing residents’ concerns about where those developments should occur.

Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Robert Wickwire. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.