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There are two distinct types of mayors, depending on the system of local government. Cities in the United States are sometimes characterized as having either "strong" or "weak" mayors. The term is not a judgement of effectiveness, rather it distinguishes the administrative authority assigned to that city's mayor.

Council-manager government

See also: Council-manager government

In the council-manager system of municipal government, the mayor is a first among equals on the city council. Most weak mayors are mayors in a council-manager form and are elected from within the city council. The mayor may chair the city council, but lacks any special legislative powers. The mayor and city council serve part-time, with day-to-day administration in the hands of a professional city manager. In a weak mayor or ceremonial mayor system, the mayor has appointing power for department heads but is subject to checks by the city council. This is common for smaller cities, especially in New England. Charlotte, North Carolina and Minneapolis, Minnesota are two notable large cities with a ceremonial mayor.[1]


  • The council is powerful, with both legislative and executive authority.
  • The mayor is not truly the chief executive, with limited power or no veto power.
  • The council can prevent the mayor from effectively supervising city administration.
  • There may be many administrative boards and commissions that operate independently from the city government.[1]

Mayor-council government

See also: Mayor-council government

Most "strong" mayors are in the mayor-council form of government and are directly elected by citizens to that office. In this system, the mayor and city council are separate offices. The mayor acts as an elected executive with the city council functioning as a legislative branch. The mayor may select a chief administrative officer to oversee the city's different departments. This is the system used in most of the United States' large cities, primarily because mayors serve full time and have a wider range of services that they oversee.[1]


  • The mayor is the chief executive officer, centralizing executive power.
  • The mayor directs the administrative structure, appointing and removing department heads.
  • While the council has legislative power, the mayor has veto power.
  • The council does not oversee daily operations.


Some of the responsibilities of the mayor may include:

  • Serving on the city council;
  • Voting in council meetings;
  • Assigning council members to chair or serve on committees;
  • Appointing citizens to serve on advisory boards or commissions;
  • Preparing the annual budget; or
  • Making an annual report to the council.

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms