At a time when cities have been hit hard by federal spending cuts, Villaraigosa is in the front lines in the fight over those cuts and is in a good position to push his local agenda for things like federal funding for transportation projects.
Villaraigosa is set to receive the new title Monday in Baltimore, where he will address the Conference of Mayors and also meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the needs of cities.
In a copy of his scheduled speech, Villaraigosa calls for his fellow mayors to get involved in bringing under-performing schools up to par with or without federal help and weeding out ineffective teachers.
He also backs an accelerated military withdrawal from Afghanistan, in part to free up more federal money for domestic spending.
The non-paying position may bring some criticism if the mayor spends a lot of time away from Los Angeles.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, the mayor said much of the city's funds come from Washington and Sacramento, so having a strong presence there will create benefits for Los Angeles and cities around the country.
Villaraigosa is the first L.A. mayor to lead the group since Norris Poulson did more than 50 years ago, although Tom Bradley was president of the National League of Cities, a similar organization, in 1974.