German mayors
Research by Jonas Schorr and Brian Baker

ON THIS PAGE: German cities ||| Mayors of largest German cities ||| German local government |||

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The 2016 World
Mayor Honours

1 Bart Somers, Mechelen, Belgium

2 Wolfgang G Müller, Lahr, Germany

3 Georgios Kaminis, Athens, Greece

4 Guisi Nicolini, Lampedusa, Italy

5 Richard Arnold, Schwäbisch Gmünd,

6 Mirjam van 't Veld, Amstelveen Netherlands

7 Spiros Galinos, Lesbos, Greece

8 Pavel Adamowicz, Gdansk, Poland

9 Damien Carême, Grande-Synthe, France

10 Henriette Reker, Cologne, Germany


German cities
29 May 2016: Germany is a country made up of thousands of towns and cities, all with directly elected mayors. A city (Großstadt) is officially defined as an administration unit with a population greater than 100,000. As of 2013, there are 76 cities in Germany. Only four cities, Berlin, Hamburg, München (Munich) and Köln (Cologne), are Millionenstädte - cities with a population of more than one million. Nine cities have a population of more than 500,000 people. The mayors’ terms of office vary between five and nine years, depending on the state. Each municipal council is headed by an elected mayor, known as Bürgermeister  - or Oberbürgermeister (lord mayor) in most larger cities.

According to the latest statistics (World Urbanization Prospects, 2011 Revision), 74 per cent of Germans (some 63 million people) live in urban areas, ie. in its approximately 6,000 towns and cities. Germany’s 300 largest cities and towns alone house half of the populace. Despite high numbers of one million people immigrating to Germany every year, the size of Germany’s urban population is generally stagnating given its already high rate of urbanisation and a generally decreasing population. There are exceptions to the rule, however, as Berlin and Munich for example are attracting a larger share of newcomers and so are projected to grow by tens of thousands every year until 2030. Other growing cities include Dresden and Leipzig in the eastern half of Germany as well as university cities of all sizes in the West.

Mayors of the largest German cities

City, size
website and state
(Mr, Ms)
Popl: 276,542
Kurt Gribl (Mr) Elected 2008; re-elected in
2014; Next elections 2020
Born 1964, PhD in law from University of Augsburg and practicing lawyer
Party: CSU*
Popl: 3,421,829
(Federal capital, city-state)
Michael Müller (Mr) Elected in 2014; Re-elected 2016 1964, trained as a printer, previously Mayor and Senator for Urban Development and the Environment, Chairman of the parliamentary faction and State Chairman of the SPD;
Party: SPD
Popl: 328,864
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Pit Clausen (Mr) Elected 2009; re-elected in 2014;
Next elections 2020
Born 1962, studied law at University of Bielefeld and practicing lawyer, councilor since 1994, lost first candidature in 2004;
Party: SPD
Popl: 361,734;
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Ottilie Scholz (Ms) Elected in 2004; re-elected in 2009 and 2014
Next elections 2020
Born 1948, PhD in sociology, psychology and pedagogy, politically active since 1980s, city manager of Castrop-Rauxel 1997-9
Party: SPD
Popl: 311,287
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Ashok Alexander Sridharan (Mr) Elected October 2015 with 50.06% of the votes in the first round Formerly City Manager in Konigswinter and previously worked in
other local government administration posts including in Bonn. Qualified in law in 1995.
Born to a German mother and an Indian migrant father in 1965
Party: CDU
Popl: 548,547;
(Free and Hanseatic city, city-state)
Dr Carsten Sieling (Mr) Elected 2015;
Next elections May 2019
Member of Bundestag 2009 – 2015. Member of Bremen House of Representatives 1995-2009. Doctorate in Economic Sciences which was achieved in 1990’s part – time whilst employed full-time.
Party: SPD
Cologne / Köln
Popl: 1,034,175
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Henriette Reker (Ms) Elected October 2015. 52.2% of votes
Next elections September 2021
Born 1956. Lawyer. Survived assassination attempt on eve of polling day.
The assault was prompted by her pro-migration policies.
Deputy Mayor of Koln/Cologne 2010-2015 responsible for integration, social affairs and environment. Deputy Mayor in City of Gelsenkirchen 2000 – 2010. First female mayor of Koln/Cologne. Accused of victim blaming after the assaults in the city at New Year 2016 when she suggested women should adopt a code of conduct including a clothing element.
Party: Independent
Popl: 575,944;
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Ullrich Sierau (Mr) Elected 2009; re-elected in 2010 and 2014;
Next elections 2020
Born 1956, fled East Germany in his youth, studied urban planning at TU Dortmund, active civil servant since 1986
Party: SPD
Popl: 530,754;
(State capital of Saxony)
Dirk Hilbert (Mr) Elected July 2015. 54% of the votes
Next elections 2022
Elected mayor after being proposed by the Independent
Citizens for Dresden and subsequently supported by CDU after first round.
He was a Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor of Dresden between 2008 – 2015.
Qualified in engineering and worked in aviation sector in 1990’s. Subsequently
worked as Assistant Secretary Economic Affairs City of Dresden.
Party: FDP
Popl: 486,855;
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Sören Link (Mr) Elected since 2012; Next elections 2018 1976, joined SPD in 1993, member of state parliament 2005-2012 working in education, media and home affairs committees;
Party: SPD
Popl: 598,686;
(State capital of North Rhine-Westphalia)
Thomas Geisel (Mr) Elected 2014
Next elections 2020
Born 1963, son of former Baden-Württemberg state parliament vice-president, studied law and political science in Germany, Switzerland and US, worked from 1994-2013 for federal privatization agency Treuhandanstalt (Berlin) and energy giants Enron (London) and Ruhrgas (Essen);
Party: SPD
Popl: 574,635
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Thomas Kufen (Mr) Elected September 2015. 62.6% of votes.
Next elections September 2021
Born 1973
Worked in private sector in a sales role 1994-2004 and was a member of state Parliament 2012-15. From 2005-2010 commissioner for integration
of state government NRW
Party: CDU
Frankfurt am Main
Popl: 701,350;
Peter Feldmann (Mr) Elected in 2012
Next elections 2018
Born 1959, an economist and political scientist. First Jewish mayor of a major German city since WWII. One of the founders of the group Jewish Social Democrats within the Social Democratic Party; 1989-2012 served as City Councilor and party deputy Chairman focused on children, youths, the unemployed and elderly care issues;
Party: SPD
Pop: 257.850
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Frank Baranowski (Mr) Elected 2004 and 2009 and re-elected in 2014 with 67.4% of the votes;
Next election 2019
Born 1962, teacher for German and history, 1995-2004 member of the state parliament, 2000-2004 deputy chairman of the state SPD faction;
Party: SPD
Popl: 1,746,342;
(Free and Hanseatic city, city-state)
Olaf Scholz (Mr) Elected 2011
Re-elected February 2015.
Next elections: 2019
Born 1958, lawyer, 1998-2011 Member of German parliament, 2002-2004 general secretary of the SPD, 2007-2009 Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, since 2009 deputy chairman of SPD;
Party: SPD
Hanover / Hannover
Popl: 518,386;
(State capital of Lower Saxony)
Stefan Schostock (Mr) Elected 2013
Next elections 2021
Born 1964, former social pedagogue and researcher for political media and industrial union, 2000-2009 chairman of the Hanover-SPD, 2010-2013 chairman of the SPD state parliament faction;
Party: SPD
Popl: 294,761
Frank Mentrup (Mr) Elected 2013;
Next elections 2020
Born 1964, trained paramedic and doctor, 1993-2011 practising psychiatrist for children and young people, 2006-2013 member of state parliament working on youth and education issues;
Party: SPD
Popl: 531.562
Burkhard Jung (Mr) Elected 2006; re-elected 2013; Next elections 2020 Born 1958, teacher, later school principal, involved in 2012 Leipzig Olympic Games bid and 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, board member of EUROCITIES and German Association of Towns and Cities;
Party: SPD
Popl: 296,690
(University town, Baden-Württemberg)
Peter Kurz (Mr) Elected 2007; Re-elected 2015;
Next elections 2023
Born 1962, lawyer and judge, PhD, councilor since 1984, became mayor for education, culture and sports in 1999 until elected Lord mayor
Party: SPD
Popl: 256,853
North Rhine-Westphalia
Hans Wilhelm Reiners (Mr) Elected June 2014 with 50.44% of votes cast Born 1955
Employed by CDU from 1998 – 2014. Previously worked in publishing as sports editor at Braunschweiger Zeitung from 1983-1987 and as editor of Rheinische Post from 1987-1998.
Party: CDU
Munich / München
Popl: 1,407,836
(State capital, Bavaria)
Dieter Reiter (Mr) Elected 2014
Next elections 2020
Born 1958, studied public administration, 1981-2009 worked for the city administration of Munich, became city councilor in 2009 and joined the SPD in 2011;
Party: SPD
Popl: 299,708
(University town, North Rhine-Westphalia)
Markus Lewe (Mr) Elected 2009; Re-elected 2015
Next elections September 2021
Born 1965, studied public administration, elected district mayor in 1999, also chairman of the supervisory board of Münster/ Osnabrück airport
Party: CDU
Nuremberg / Nürnberg
Popl: 498,876
Ulrich Maly (Mr) Elected 2002; re-elected 2008 and 2014
Next elections 2020
Born 1960, studied economics and public law, PhD, politically active since 1967, member of numerous supervisory boards in publicly owned companies, award juries and charities, since 2013 President of the Association of German Cities;
Party: SPD
Popl: 604,297
(State capital of Baden-Württemberg)
Fritz Kuhn (Mr) Elected 2012; Next elections 2020 Born 1955, German studies and philosophy, lecturer for linguistics, 2000-2002 Chairman of the Federal Green party, 2002-2013 member of the German federal parliament, 2005-2009 Chairman of the Federal parliament faction;
Party: The Greens
Popl: 275.976
(State capital of Hesse)
Sven Gerich (Mr) Elected 2013; Next elections 2019 Born 1974, trained as carpenter, worked later as a printer, joined SPD in 2003, 2006-2013 elected local politician, 2011 elected faction chairman in local parliament;
Party: SPD
Popl: 343,488
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Andcreas Mucke (Mr) Elected October 2015. 59.70% of the votes September 2021 Born 1966
After working in environmental technology and materials research he became managed a section of Wuppertal Stadwerke from 2000-2011. From 2011-2015 he was managing director of Wuppertal Quarter Development GmBh. Member of Wuppertal City Council 1994-2011.
Party: SPD
*Political parties:
Social Democrats, SPD (“Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands”); centre-left
Christian Democrats, CDU (“Christlisch-Demokratische Union”); centre-right
Christian Social Union, CSU (“Christlich-Soziale Union”); centre-right, “sister” party of CDU active only in Bavaria
The Greens (“Die Grünen”); centre-left, environmental
**Population numbers as of 31 December 2013, compiled from the regional statistical offices in Germany and the Federal Statistical Office Germany (DESTATIS)

Local government in Germany
Additional contributions by Urs Enke, Gregor Gosciniak, Irmelind Kirchner and Jens Tessmann

Germany is a federal parliamentary democracy, made up of 16 federal states (Länder). The Länder are North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Schleswig-Holstein, Sachsen-Anhalt, Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Rheinland Pfalz, Saarland, and Thuringia, and the city-states Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen.
Each Land elects a regional parliament, or Landtag, for a five year term which in turn appoints the state administration (Landsregierung) headed by a minister-president (Ministerpräsident). The Länder are mainly responsible for culture, education, environment and policing, with a number of shared responsibilities with the federal government over legal and penal issues.

In all but one of the 16 Länder, the council system exists whereby each local government, in the form of the municipal council, is generally elected for a five year term, though this can vary between four and six years. Each council is headed by an elected mayor, known as the Bürgermeister - or Oberbürgermeister in larger cities - who acts as head of both the council and the administration. The mandate can vary from four to nine years. In Hesse however, the magistrat system is used, whereby the mayor presides over magistrates appointed by the council to act as the administration. Common responsibilities of this tier include planning, water management, social welfare and the building and maintenance of schools. Some councils also engage in cultural, economic development and energy-related activities, depending on the Land.

Today there are around 14,000 municipalities across Germany. Above the local tier and beneath the Länder, a tier of 300 units of local administration known as Kreise (districts) also exists. These are overseen by a district council, with a mandate varying between one and four years, again depending on the Land. Aside from the legislative function of its council, the administration (Landratsamt) is headed by a district president (Landrat), who is either appointed by the council or directly elected for a five to eight year term. This tier engages in the construction and maintenance of roads, some aspects of social welfare and waste management, though some are also able to engage in tourism promotion, libraries and higher education.
Cities represent the lowest level within the three administrative levels (federal, state, municipal) in Germany. The Federation and the Länder put certain tasks to the municipalities – they are also supposed to allocate the corresponding funding with it which, in reality, is not always the case. Within the framework of self-administration, the cities organise and administrate their own voluntary activities which they also have to pay for with their own budgets.

All public services are generally managed locally, like (waste) water management, waste disposal, energy supply and such. The municipality is free to handle activities in these fields on their own or decide to outsource them to private businesses, which has become a common practice during recent years. Other voluntary activities are overseen by the municipality as well. In addition, most activities commissioned by the Land are carried out by the responsible municipal administrations as the lowest official body in the federal system. These include the organisation of elections, the registration for the military and so on.

Recommended further reading
The participation of citizens in German local government
Local government in Germany shaped by regional differences