PermaLinkWhat Are The Responsibilities Of A Mayor?
12:23:22 AM

In the comment thread to my post about community organizers, I was asked "To be fair, will you be posting a complete list of a mayor's duties?".

Well, no... I won't be posting that because there is no such list.

There is, however, a list of the responsibilities of the Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. It is a full-time job, paying $75,000/year (currently). I've seen the widely forwarded/published letter from a Wasilla resident that claims that Mayor Palin was required to hire a full-time administrator to handle "most of the actual work of running this small city" after her adminstration got off to a rocky start, but I've not seen that claim validated anywhere, and I can easily believe that there were enough responsibilities to keep two competent people busy.

Anyhow, in general, Mayors have widely varying responsibilities. Many municipalities, including many that are considerably larger than Wasilla, Alaska, have no mayor at all. For example, here in New England, many towns have a form of government known as "Council-Manager", in which there is a town Council, (a.k.a., "Board of Aldermen", "Board of Selectmen", etc.), a Chairman of that Council, and a Town Manager and/or Town Administrator -- but no Mayor, and policy decisions are handled through the Town Meeting process. Right across the river from where I live here in Nashua is the town of Hudson, New Hampshire, with population of around 23,000, which is governed this way. Here in Nashua, however, we have a Mayor and we are incorporated as a city so there is no Town Meeting.

If a municipality does have a mayor, the duties of the mayor will depend on size and population, but there many other factors. E.g., number of employees, services provided by the town versus those provided by the county or even the state, etc. The small town of Algona, Iowa has roughly the population that Wasilla, Alaska had when (now Governor) Sarah Palin was first elected Mayor, but Algona has a part-time Mayor with (as evidenced by a salary of $7500/year) with relatively limited duties in comparison to the more extensive responsibilities of the Mayor of Wasilla.

It seems on the surface that Wasilla operates on much more of a "big government" philosophy than Algona. The Wasilla debt (which was largely accrued during Palin's stint as Mayor, as confirmed in Wasilla's financial reports) and earmarks do tend to support this idea, but it is important to point out that I haven't researched Algona's debt, earmarks, or things like the services that the town gets from the county or state and therefore does not have to manage on its own. It is also fair to point out that Wasilla seems to have made a deliberate pro-growth choice, which could easily be a substantial part of the explanation for the deficit spending and requirement for a full-time Mayor.

Does any of this matter? Well... that's part of the question that I asked in the my post from a couple of days ago, which is the lead-in to a series that I will be posting over the next several weeks. It's clearly a question that few people are likely to agree on completely. After all, Karl Rove doesn't even agree with himself! And better yet, someone whom I agree with on almost nothing, the editor of the opinion page of the Manchester Union Leader, one of the country's most ultra-conservative newspapers. wrote a blog entry about executive experience that actually makes sense! Go figure. And all the more reason to go ahead with my series, because if I'm in agreement with the Union Leader on something, a formal investigation is clearly required!

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Comments :v

1. Ed Maloney09/09/2008 05:45:52 AM

Hey, when she answered the phone at 3 AM in Wasilla it was because there was a moose in someone's trash. How much more ready than that do you have to be?

2. Bruce Perry09/09/2008 10:28:39 PM

Yikes! The Union Leader making sense? Those of you who haven't lived in NH may not know just how unusual this is.

Of course, another awful possibility suggests itself. Perhaps now that Rich and I are one step closer to a certain age threshold, our critical faculties have decayed to the point where we can no longer detect the nonsense in the Union Leader.

Could some kind young person go read that editorial and let us know?


(and please stay off the lawn)

3. Joi09/30/2008 09:37:56 AM

Hey ya'll im 13 and i find this site very helpful with my work in school!!

4. someone05/02/2009 12:11:49 AM

um...with the mayor thing...what was that

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