Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz is in line to become the top U.S. mayor.

Kautz, who is in her fifth term as Burnsville mayor, was elected to the leadership council of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week and is scheduled to become president of the group in 2010.

Kautz would be the first Minnesotan to head the conference of mayors, whose members meet with presidents, congressional representatives and other policymakers about key issues facing cities, such as the foreclosure crisis.

Kautz, 61, faces two opponents in her reelection campaign this year. Both have failed in previous bids for City Council seats. Filings for the seat open July 1, and it's possible there could be other candidates.

"I'm going to work hard to win my election, because in 2010, Burnsville and Minnesota will have one of their own as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors," she said.

The most pressing issue for mayors, Kautz said, is the need for a national improvement plan for infrastructure including roads, rail, air, transit and telecommunications.

"Infrastructure is the biggest issue that every city is struggling with," she said.

Other priorities, Kautz said, include efforts to restore federal funding for community-oriented policing programs and community development block grants, which help cities provide affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization and essential services for low-income residents.

And to help cities compete on a global level, she said, the mayors would promote tax incentives, bonds and other strategies, including training workers for "green jobs," such as the installation of solar panels.

If reelected, Kautz will follow Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels as president of the conference.

Wednesday, she drew praise from Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak for her work on a regional conference of mayors she cofounded in 2004.

"When I want to get things done in this region, one of the first things I do is pick up the phone and call Elizabeth," Rybak said. "I've seen how effective she can be in partnering in the region, and I know she can do the same on a national level."

She has stirred some local opposition with her work to bring a $20 million regional Performing Arts Center to Burnsville's Heart of the City downtown redevelopment.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017