Mayor–council government

Mayor–council government

The mayor–council government system, sometimes called the mayor–commission government system, is one of the two most common forms of local government for municipalities. It is the one most frequently adopted in large cities, although the other form, council-manager government, is the typical local government form of more municipalities.

Characterized by having a mayor who is elected by the voters, the mayorcouncil variant may be broken down into two main variations depending on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches, becoming a weak mayor or a strong mayor based upon the powers of the office. These forms are used principally in modern representative municipal governments in the United States, but also are used in some other countries.


Weak-mayor form

In a weak-mayor-council system, the council is both a legislative and an executive body. Council members appoint administrative officials; they make policy; they serve as ex officio members of boards; and they prepare the budget. With this, mayoral powers are "weak" because they lack effective executive power and restriction on the ability to appoint and remove officials, and lack veto powers.[1]

Charles Adrian and Charles Press explain, "The weak-mayor plan is a product of Jacksonian democracy. It comes from the belief that if politicians have few powers and many checks, then they can do relatively little damage."[citation needed]

This elected, weak mayor form of government may be found in small towns in the United States that do not use the more popular council–manager form used in most municipalities that are not considered large or major cities.

In the Indian sub-continent the British Government introduced a weak-mayor system with a provincial government-appointed commissioner in the municipal corporations as the executive functionary who had the same power of a district officer vis-a-vis other local authorities.

Strong-mayor form

The strong-mayor form of mayor–council government usually consists of an executive branch, a mayor elected by voters, and a unicameral council as the legislative branch.[2]

In the strong-mayor form the elected mayor is given almost total administrative authority and a clear, wide range of political independence, with the power to appoint and dismiss department heads without council approval and little, or no public input. In this system, the strong-mayor prepares and administers the city budget, although that budget often must be approved by the council. Abuses in this form led to the development of the council–manager form of local government and its adoption widely throughout the United States.

In some strong-mayor governments, the mayor will appoint a chief administrative officer who will supervise department heads, prepare the budget, and coordinate departments. This officer is sometimes called a city manager; while the term used in the equally popular council–manager government, the manager is responsible only to the mayor in this variant.

Most major and large American cities use the strong-mayor form of the mayor–council system, however, the middle size and small American cities use the council-manager system.[3]

Pakistan after its devolution plan has had a variant of the strong-mayor system since 2001. In India, West Bengal has introduced a cabinet-type system of executive, called mayor/chairperson-in-council, in its local governments during 1980–1991, that resembles the strong-mayor system, except that the mayor may be removed through a vote of no-confidence by the elected council in the British model of government.

See also


  1. ^ Saffell, Dave C. and Harry Basehart. "State and Local Government: Politics and Public Policies." McGraw Hill. 9th ed. Pg. 237
  2. ^ Kathy Hayes, Semoon Chang (July 1990). "The Relative Efficiency of City Manager and Mayor–Council Forms of Government". Southern Economic Journal 57 (1): 167–177. doi:10.2307/1060487. JSTOR 1060487. 
  3. ^ Edwards III, George C.; Robert L. Lineberry; and Martin P. Wattenberg (2006). Government in America. Pearson Education. pp. 677–678. ISBN 0321292367. 

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