How To Be A Good Mayor: Tips For Not Running Your Municipality (Or Yourself) Into The Ground

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How to win friends and influence people… particularly at the polls.

Updated March 31, 2023

Now that the hardest part about serving in public office is behind you (getting elected), it’s time to get to work making a difference (so you can get reelected). As you’ve already experienced, most of “making a difference” simply means keeping your government operational—which is hard enough on some days.

“Good” Mayors

At its core, the job of a mayor is being the chief executive of the municipality. To this end, good mayors are both efficient administrators who find ways to get things done and inspiring leaders who reflect the public’s vision and motivate everyone to do their part.

Good mayors win elections because other candidates have a hard time arguing that they can do a better job.

“Bad” Mayors

Bad mayors are just the opposite. They use taxpayer dollars inefficiently, are slow to change, and suppress innovation and initiative. 

Bad mayors lose elections because, while people might kiss up to them for a favor, no one likes working with them.

10 Tips For Being A Better Mayor

Though far from a comprehensive list, here are a few words of advice for being a legendary mayor:

  • Know your job description. Your duties, roles, and responsibilities are not necessarily the same as those of other mayors in your area. They are partially spelled out in state code, but local laws and ordinances (including resolutions) complete the picture. (For example, did you know that Utah mayors can get funding for their municipality by declaring a local emergency?) Make sure you read the state code, (this civiclinQ module helps) and your municipality’s code. 
  • Stick to your job description. Don’t take on responsibilities that should be done by someone else. Focus on what the law says you should be doing and do it well. 
  • Be transparent. Like all elected officials, mayors work for the public. Keep records, comply with GRAMA, and make sure the Council knows about big changes you make.
  • Delegate to your staff. Be specific about the outcome you’re looking for, but don’t micromanage. The community needs you to be a leader, not a one-person army.
  • Get good at online meetings (particularly video calls). They’re more and more the way of the future.
  • Be nice to your staff. Don’t let the stress of putting out fires get to you. It’s easy enough to be nice to the public—you need their votes. But resentful staff will make your life miserable, no matter how long you’re in office.
  • Seek out new strategies. The economic landscape is quickly changing throughout America. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to work tomorrow.
  • Don’t sell your soul to developers. Souls go for a lot on the black market, but doing what is best for the community as a whole is what will get you reelected. Don’t let companies pressure (or bribe) you into making special exceptions that you wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining to the public.
  • Hire quality consultants. Making the community’s dreams come true requires good information and data, so take the time to hire the best consultants for planning, legal, and economic projects. (We’d be happy to introduce ourselves…)
  • Try to have a life outside of work. You may not be able to relax, but you can at least pretend to. Every community has issues that the mayor has no control over, and chances are, your community will still be on the brink of collapse tomorrow. 

Hoping For A Second Term?

If reading your job description has inspired you to make large-scale changes in your community, then we’re here to help you impress voters with your smart planning and execution.

Call Rural Community Consultants today to get expert planning, economic, and ordinance advice to make your community the best it can be.

Want To Learn More?

Check out our online training modules! Note: Rural Community Consultants is able to provide access to specific training modules free of charge, courtesy of the Utah Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman.

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