A mayor is a government position in charge of every major department of a city, from the police force and fire department to education, housing, and transportation. While a mayor has a great deal of power on a localized level, the position’s influence is also affected by the city’s power structure. There are four major classifications of governmental structure within a city; some cities even function as a hybrid of multiple classifications.
Strong Council-Weak Mayor
One common type of structure is a mayor whose power and influence is at the mercy of the city council. In this sort of configuration, the mayor serves the city in more of a ceremonial figurehead capacity. This type of governance, taken from British models, places the mayor as the city council’s leader and leaves the position with just as much influence as any other councilperson, with a handful of exceptions. In this arrangement, the mayor often has final say over budgetary issues, presides over every council meeting, signs proclamations and makes appearances at various ceremonies.
Weak Council-Strong Mayor
This arrangement places a great deal of authority in the mayor’s hands. In this situation, councilpersons manage legislation while the mayor covers everything else about the administration. This mayor is in charge of hiring and firing government workers, can veto legislation and is in charge of implementing the laws passed by the city council. This mayor is concerned with ceremonial duties with some cities even granting legislative influence.
Commission and Council-Manager Systems
Few cities utilize the commission configuration, but the Council-Manager has grown quite prevalent. These two groups share a section because the mayor’s power is similar to the “strong council-weak mayor” arrangement. In these arrangements, the mayor governs council meetings and staff management but otherwise serves as a government figurehead.
Even with a city’s mayor lacks direct authority over the goings on of the city, the mayor can still use local politics to acquire more influence. Some mayors use their political connections to affect the flow of the city council or its manager to reach their political aspirations. While the council and mayor have a fair share of power, the mayor’s governance, regardless of the configuration it may take in a given city, is also at the mercy of constituents-the voters.