Female Mayors On The Rise

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In terms of electing female mayors, 2013 has seen progress.

On November 6, 2013, Minnesota.publicradio.org shares Ms. Del Rae Williams will replace Mayor Mark Voxland, who decided not to seek a fourth four-year term.

City Manager Michael Redlinger tells The Forum that Williams will be the first female mayor of Moorhead since the city was incorporated in 1881. She takes office Jan. 1. Moorhead is a city in Clay County, Minnesota, United States, and the largest city in northwest Minnesota. The population was 38,065 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Clay County.

There was important news in larger towns as well.

In New York, three of the state’s largest cities — Albany, Rochester and Syracuse — elected women as mayor. Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat, beat Jesse Calhoun, a Republican, to become the state capital’s first new mayor in 20 years. Syracuse gave Stephanie Miner a second term as its Democratic mayor.

Rochester has had 65 mayors, all of them male. That will change on January 1 as Lovely Warren wins the Rochester Mayoral election, taking 56 percent of the vote. Warren defeated Rochester Mayor Tom Richards who took 39 percent of the vote, and Alex White who took 5 percent states wxxinews.org.

As of September 18, 2013, usatoday.comm reports only one of the nation’s 10 largest cities is run by a woman: Annise Parker of Houston. Just 12 of the 100 largest cities have women in the top job, including Fort Worth, Baltimore and Las Vegas.

The article continues in smaller cities, women do better. About 17.4% of all city mayors are women, about on par with the U.S. House of Representatives. And the U.S. Senate now has 20 women, an all-time high.

Many see this as progress. Given the public’s perception of the importance of the mayor’s office, what exactly does a mayor do?

It depends upon the city.

People.howstuffworks.com clarifies the question.

Traditionally, mayors oversee a city’s main departments, including the police, fire, education, housing and transportation departments. At the same time, their responsibilities vary depending on the local power structure. There are four main options for a city’s local government structure, and some cities use a combination of several.

A common power structure is the council-weak mayor. This type of structure gives the majority of the city power to the council members, with the mayor acting as more of a ceremonial leader of the council. This traditional form of governing, which was adopted from the British style of local government, sets up the mayor as a member of the council, equal to all other members, except for a few other responsibilities. The mayor in this structure may have final authority over fiscal issues and will usually be the presiding member over all the council meetings, sign proclamations for the city and make ceremonial appearances.

Another structure is the council-strong mayor, in which the mayor has significantly more authority. In this system, the council members are in charge of the legislative processes of the city, while the mayor is responsible for all the administrative duties. This differs from the council-weak mayor, in which all of the legislative authority is given to council members, with no direct administrative offices established. The mayor in this type of city is responsible for the hiring and firing of staff, may have veto power and is responsible for implementing legislation passed by the council. The mayor is responsible for ceremonial duties, and some cities may give the mayor legislative power as well.

The other two types of local government systems are the council-manager system and the commission system. Few cities use the commission system, but the Council-Manager system has become quite popular. In both of these systems, the mayor has power similar to the council-weak mayor, who may oversee council meetings or even appoint staff, but mainly serves in a ceremonial role [Source: Florida League of Cities].

When you’re the chief executive of a large municipality you’re overseeing millions and millions of dollars in jobs and a large law enforcement presence.

The importance of being elected mayor for many is the expectation it will be a launching pad to other positions of power like the Governor’s office.

Currently five of 50 governorships are held by women, and there are 24 states that have never had a female governor, according to counts kept by the Center for American Women and Politics.

To increase the participation of women as mayors there are groups who have that as a high priority in purpose.


The website usmayors.org explains The Women Mayors’ Caucus was convened in 1983 by Senator Dianne Feinstein, former Mayor of San Francisco. The purpose of the Women Mayors’ Caucus is both to encourage and develop involvement and leadership potential for women mayors within the Conference of Mayors. The Caucus also provides an excellent opportunity for networking and forum for an exchange of ideas on issues important to women.

The non-partisan group meets bi-annually during the Winter Legislative Conference and Summer Annual Meeting to discuss how women mayors can assume more responsibility within the organization.

The Women Mayors’ Caucus is dedicated to increasing, on a non-partisan basis, the influence of women mayors within the Conference of Mayors. The Caucus seeks to discuss substantive issues of importance to cities and forward appropriate policy recommendations to the Conference.

There seems to be progress in terms of women being elected to this sometimes powerful office.

As we move up to this year’s recent elections on November 7, 2013 the huffingtonpost.com reports that women are making strides in state and local races is progress, says Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates. “People around the country are ready to see more women in executive positions — for mayor in 2013, for governor in 2014 and the White House in 2016,” she told USA Today earlier this year.

In a statement today, she congratulated the newly elected female mayors, saying more women are needed in executive leadership seats “to make fighting for women’s rights and opportunities top priorities.”

The recent election results come on the heels of the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, which finds that the U.S. lags behind other countries, particularly in the area of female political empowerment. Women make up only 18.3 percent of Congress. Some 47 countries have had at least one female head of state over the last 50 years, while the U.S. has had none.

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Sources: minnesota.publicradio.org, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/09/18, www.cawp.rutgers.edu, abcnews.go.com, www.theguardian.com, people.howstuffworks.com, Wikipedia, www.crainsnewyork.com, huffingtonpost.com, wxxinews.org, Brainquote.com, Photos thanks to Wikimedia Commons.