It is probably one of the most heralded positions in all of politics. The Mayor.
Sure, the President of the United States is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but the position of mayor holds a time-honored place in our local communities. In fact, the United States Department of State lists a mayor in his or her own city as holding ceremonial precedence over a substantial number of offices, including all federal judges below the Supreme Court and all state legislators, in the United States Order of Precedence. It’s also the only local government position mention in the list.
We often conjure images of mayors at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, or using the gavel to begin city council meetings, but what else is there to being a mayor? More importantly, what exactly does the Mayor of the City of Jersey Village do? As with most things, we should start with the city charter.
According to the Charter of the City of Jersey Village, Section 2.05, “The mayor shall preside at all meetings of the council and shall be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes, for the purpose of receiving service of civil process, for emergency purposes, and for military purposes; but the mayor shall have no regular administrative duties. The mayor shall perform other such duties and possess and exercise such other duty and authority as may be prescribed and conferred by the council. The mayor shall be entitled to vote only in case of a tie vote by the council. The mayor shall have no veto power.”
But there’s quite a bit more to the position of Mayor than just those responsibilities.
First Among Equals
It’s important to note that the Mayor is just as much a member of the Jersey Village City Council as any Councilmember. As stated in the charter, the Mayor presides over all city council meetings, but he doesn’t vote unless there is a tie. This is consistent with a long tradition in deliberative bodies in which the presiding officer takes a relatively neutral position in order to better maintain the flow of debate and retain some semblance of impartiality in particularly contentious debates.
Yet, in our city government structure, the Mayor has no ability to veto an ordinance (some cities do provide their mayor with this power). Also, with five voting council members, a quorum of members of city council is defined as three, not counting the mayor among those three council members.
So, if you have no vote and no veto power, why exactly is the Mayor such an important position in Jersey Village?
The Mayor of Jersey Village, like most mayors in the United States, possesses quite a bit of influence in the direction and priorities of city council. Typically, the person who is elected Mayor is one who has served on the Jersey Village City Council for a few years and holds the respect of most, if not all, Councilmembers. That person, therefore, is often able to sway a close debate among council.
Ambassador of the City
If someone in county, state or federal government is trying to reach out to a local government, they’re likely going to try and contact the mayor first. This is absolutely true in the City of Jersey Village (with the City Manager coming in a very close second on that list). When a business opens in Jersey Village, they might occasionally invite all members of council to the ribbon cutting, but often the Mayor is the primary representative of city government at such events.
The Mayor’s role as ambassador for the City of Jersey Village is extraordinarily important. A proactive Mayor can make a big difference when it comes to promoting our community to outside groups. Economic development has been a key focus of our city for the last several years, and I know that Mayor Justin Ray has been at the tip of the spear when it comes to discussions with developers in the area. Working alongside our City Manager, they have been instrumental in the progress we have made recently.
To sum it up, the Mayor is the face of Jersey Village. A skillful and diplomatic Mayor can make all the difference in advancing the interests of our city when it comes to working with others in industry and government.
Lead In An Emergency
As we know too well over the last several years, the City of Jersey Village plays a central role in emergency management. Our key city staff are all trained in implementation of an Incident Command System, which is the standard system for emergency management used by all levels of government in order to ensure seamless coordination of activities among various government entities and agencies in an emergency.
As noted in our charter above, the Mayor is the head of government for the purposes of emergency management. This is also re-emphasized in Section 22-35(c)(1) of the Jersey Village Code of Ordinance, which states:
“The mayor is primarily responsible for:
- Directing the overall preparedness program for the city;
- Making emergency policy decisions;
- Declaring a local state of disaster when necessary;
- Implementing the emergency powers of local government;
- Keeping the public informed of the situation with the assistance of the public information officer; and
- Requesting outside assistance when necessary.”
That’s quite a sizable job. In the event of an emergency, you want someone in that role whom you trust to keep a level head and manage an emergency in a way that ensures efficient coordination among the various functions of local government and outside agencies.
A Big Job
While the Mayor may not be able to vote on matters before council, the job undertaken by anyone elected to this position is expansive. The guiding hand of a Mayor skilled at diplomacy, marketing, networking and consensus building can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of city government.
Next time someone tells you that the Mayor of Jersey Village is a mere “figurehead”, remind them of the importance of the position. It’s not all ribbon cutting and gavelling.