Mayor of the District of Columbia

Mayor of the District of Columbia
Mayor of the District of Columbia
Flag of Washington, D.C..svg
Flag of the District of Columbia
Adrian Fenty, Mayor of DC, November 5, 2007
Adrian M. Fenty

since 2007
Term length Four years, renewable
Inaugural holder Walter E. Washington
Formation 1973
Website Executive Office of the Mayor

The Mayor of the District of Columbia is the head of the executive branch of the government of Washington, DC, the capital of the United States of America. The mayor has the duty to enforce city laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the D.C. Council, the legislative branch. In addition, the mayor administers all city services, public property, police and fire protection, most public agencies, and the public school system within the District of Columbia. The mayor's office oversees an annual city budget of $8.8 billion.

The mayor's office is located on the top floor of the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington, D.C. The mayor appoints (with the confirmation of the D.C. Council) several officers, including the Deputy Mayors for Education and Planning & Economic Development; the City Administrator; the chancellor of public schools, and the cabinet.



The structure of Washington, D.C.'s city government has changed several times since the City of Washington was officially granted a formal government in 1802. From 1802 to 1812, the mayor was appointed by the President of the United States; Washington's first mayor was Robert Brent, appointed in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson. Between 1812 and 1820, the city's mayors were then selected by a city council. From 1820 to 1871 the mayor was popularly elected.

Originally, four separate municipalities were located within the District of Columbia, and each was governed separately: the City of Washington, Georgetown, Alexandria County (retroceded to the state of Virginia in 1846), and unincorporated territory known as Washington County. With the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, the District of Columbia was united under a single territorial government, whose chief executive was Governor. This office was abolished in 1874, after only two governors (Henry D. Cooke and Alexander Robey Shepherd) and replaced with a three-member Board of Commissioners appointed by the President. This system existed until 1967, when the President Lyndon B. Johnson created the office of mayor-commissioner, to be appointed by the President. This office had only one occupant in its eight years of existence: Walter E. Washington.

In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and 13-member legislative council, with the first elections to take place the following year. Incumbent mayor-commissioner Walter Washington was elected the first home-rule Mayor of the District of Columbia on November 5, 1974.


The mayor serves a four-year term and can be re-elected without term limits. Candidates must live and be registered to vote in the District of Columbia for one year prior to the date of the election. Elections take place in the same year as the midterm Congressional elections on election day in November. However, since the electorate of the District is overwhelmingly (over 80 percent) Democratic, in practice the mayor is determined in the primary election, held on the second Tuesday in September.

The mayor is sworn in on January 2 following the election.


If the mayor dies in office, resigns, or is unable to carry out his/her duties and he/she did not designate an acting mayor, the Chairman of the DC Council becomes acting mayor until a special election can be held and certified by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics. At least 114 days must pass between the mayoral vacancy and the special election, which is held on the first Tuesday thereafter. As of 2010, no such vacancy has ever occurred.

Duties and powers

The mayor has the responsibility to enforce all city law; administer and coordinate city departments, including the appointment of a City Administrator and heads of the departments (subject to confirmation by the Council); to set forth policies and agendas to the Council, and prepare and submit the city budget at the end of each fiscal year. The mayor has the powers to either approve or veto bills passed by the DC Council; to submit drafts of legislation to the Council; and to propose federal legislation or action directly to the President and/or Congress of the United States. As head of the city's executive branch, the mayor has the power to draft and enact executive orders relative to the departnemts and officials under his jurisdiction, and to reorganize any entities within the executive branch (except in the case of formal disapproval by the Council). Additionally, the mayor reserves the right to be heard by the Council or any of its committees.

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