World Mayor vote 20/21 US local government and
mayors of largest cities

Researched and edited by Robert O’Connor with contributions by Nick Swift and John White

ON THIS PAGE: Forms of US local government || Table of mayors or largest US cities ||

The best Mayors for Stronger | Fairer | Greener cities. Elect your candidate for the 20/21 World Mayor Prize and Honours. The Prize has been awarded since 2004.

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American / US mayorsMayors of the largest US cities
February 2020: There are 19,429 municipal governments in the United States. Many small towns use the council-manager system (most counties are run this way) and those that don’t, have a weak mayor-council system. Almost all large US cities have strong mayor systems. Towns with populations of 5,000 or less (varies between states) are not allowed to incorporate and are overseen by the county government.

Mayors, and the city council, are directly elected. The length of a term and the number of term limits are in the city charter, as is the day of election. Most mayoral elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to coincide with Federal elections, which take place then (as per the US Constitution), but not all municipalities do this.

Democrats control most large US cities
Following the November 2018 mid-term elections, two thirds of the largest US cities are governed by Democrat mayors. Republican mayors rule in 23 per cent of US cities, while some ten per cent of mayors of large cities describe themselves as independent.

Forms of US local government
More than eighty per cent of American citizens now live in large cities, suburbs of cities, or towns. People’s needs – from police to sanitation, education to fire protection, housing and public transportation – are seen to, most directly, by city governments. There are, broadly speaking, three forms of it: the mayor-council form the commission form and the city or council-manager form.

In the mayor-council form, which is the oldest of the three, there is (not surprisingly) a mayor and a council consisting of a number of members, sometimes called aldermen. The structure is patterned on that of the state and federal governments. While the mayor is elected at large, the aldermen are sometimes elected, in other cases selected from wards or districts. The mayor is head of the executive branch, presiding over council meetings, appointing chiefs of departments, perhaps with the council’s approval, and is often the budgetary officer of the city. He can veto ordinances passed by the legislative branch, the council.

Two forms of mayor-council rule – the strong-mayor and the weak-mayor – have evolved, although they have the points already enumerated in common. The ‘strong mayor’ can appoint and remove heads of city departments few officials, in that scenario, are elected. He is the preparer of the budget, and has power of veto. Throughout the 1990s, the strong mayor-council form of city government was most popular in cities where the form of government has been decided by the state, and declined in popularity in home rule cities (already mentioned), where the citizens of the city have and exercise the right under state law to decide their form of municipal government.

Where the mayor is a significant policy maker, an administrator may be given responsibility for daily operations. The legislature, in general, adopts the budget and general policy positions, passes resolutions with legislation, and audits the government’s performance.

The mayor in the other kind of mayor-council city government, the ‘weak’ mayor, has more limited powers of appointment, removal and veto, and the elected officials and boards are more numerous. The council’s more extensive legal powers preclude his being a chief executive in any truly meaningful sense.

The commission form of city government in the United States combines, in one group of usually at least three, and often five or seven, officials, the executive and legislative dimensions. It is also, sometimes, called the Galveston Plan, after the town in Texas where it originated in 1901 (and which has since abandoned it). All members are elected, and each commissioner is responsible for at least one city department. One of them is the chairperson and may be called the mayor, but he or she has no extra powers. Historically the commission form is regarded as an important manifestation of the impulse in the direction of efficiency through employment of experts, but others have seen that tendency in a negative light – as a movement depriving those without any particular ‘expertise’ – the working class, in other words – of their influence.

It has also been seen as a stage in the development of the city manager or council-manager form of municipal government. Commissions whose members all have different interests but equal powers have a predictable predisposition to unresolved disagreement. Bringing in a business manager was, and has increasingly been (the commission plan has rarely been initiated since the First World War), seen as the solution. The city manager has most executive powers, including those pertaining to law enforcement and service provision. He carries out the decisions of the elected council, who decide on ordinances and policy, and he, again, produces the city budget. He is thus not elected, but hired, and has no term of office, continuing in his or her role while it meets with the requirements of the council.

Yet other forms of local government in the United States include the town meeting, the representative town meeting, the township, the borough and the village.

Town meetings are largely a phenomenon of New England states. As often as necessary, but at least once a year, a town’s registered voters meet, in open session, to elect officers, debate issues and pass laws. Practical issues such as taxes, budget and building and road construction and repair are decided. The board officers are called ‘selectmen’, board of supervisors, town council, or something similar.

The representative town meeting is very like the town meeting system, except that, while all citizens may attend meetings and take part in the debates, the right to vote belongs only to the (large) number chosen to be representatives.

In a township, there is usually a mayor and three, four or five committee members, who are elected, and who hold all legislative powers not held by the mayor. An administrator may be appointed to discharge executive functions.

A borough’s mayor and six members of council are elected, and the mayor only votes to break ties. The council is the legislature, and the mayor appoints officers. In a village, there is, usually, a board of trustees with five elected members, one of whom has mayoral powers.

Mayors of the largest American cities
City, size*
& website
(Mr, Ms)
Profile &
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Popl: 545,852
Mr. Tim Keller First: 2017; Next: 2021 Born 1977
Member of New Mexico Senate 2009-2015; Auditor of New Mexico 2015-to date
Party: Democrat
Arlington, Texas
Popl: 365,438
Mr. Jeff Williams Elected: May 2015; Re-elected May 2019; Next: 2021 President of major engineering firm and planning consultancy
Party: None
Atlanta, Georgia
Popl: 420,003
Ms. Keisha Lance Bottoms Elected December 2017; Next 2021 Born 1970
A lawyer, who has been city councillor since 2010. Former Mayor Kasim Reed endorsed her during the election campaign.
Party: Democrat
Austin, Texas
Popl: 790,390;
Mr. Stephen Adler First: 2014 Mayor since January 2015; Re-elected 2018; Next: 2022 Born 1956
Civil rights lawyer for 35 years
Party: Democrat
Baltimore, Maryland
Popl: 620,961;
Mr. Bernard C 'Jack' Young First: May 2019
Next: 2023
Born 1954
President of Baltimore City Council 2010-2019
Party: Democrat
Boston, Massachusetts
Popl: 617,594
Mr. Marty Walsh First: 2013 Next: 2021 Born 1967
Massachusetts House of Representatives 1997-2013
Party: Democrat
Charlotte, North Carolina
Popl: 731,424
Ms. Vi Lyles First: 2017; Re-elected November 2019;
Next: 2021
Born 1953
City Council 2013-2017
Party: Democrat
Chicago, Illinois
Popl: 2,695,598
Ms. Lori Lightfoot First: 2019
Next: 2023
Born 1962
President Chicago Police Board, 2015-2018
Assistant US Attorney, Northern District of Illinois, 1996-2002
Party: Democrat
Cleveland, Ohio
Popl: 396,815;
Mr. Frank Jackson First: 2005
Re-elected in 2009, 2013 and 2017
Next: 2021
Born 1946
City Council 2001-2005
Party: Democrat
Colorado Springs Colorado
Popl: 416,427
Mr. John Suthers First: 2015; Re-elected 2019; Next: 2023 Born 1951
Attorney General of Colorado 2005-2015
Party: Republican
Columbus, Ohio
Popl: 787,033;
Mr. Andrew Ginther First: 2015; re-elected November 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1975
City Council member 2007-2015, Council President 2011-2015
Party: Democrat
Dallas, Texas
Popl: 1,197,816
Mr. Eric Johnson First elected June 2019;
Next : 2023
Born in Dallas 1975; Degrees from Harvard and Princeton; Practised law since 2004; Member of the Texan House of Representative since 2010;
Party: Democrat
Denver, Colorado
Popl: 600,158
Mr. Michael Hancock First: 2011; Re-elected June 2019; Next: 2023 Born 1969
City Council 2004-2011
Party: Democrat
Detroit, Michigan
Popl: 713,777
Mr. Mike Duggan First: 2013 Next: 2021 Born 1958
President, CEO of Detroit Medical Center 2004-2010. Deputy County Executive, Wayne County 1987-2001
Party: Democrat
El Paso, Texas
Popl: 649,121
Mr. Donald "Dee" Margo First: 2017
Next: 2021
Born: 1952
Texas House of Representatives 2011-2013
Party: Republican
Fort Worth, Texas
Popl: 741,206
Mrs. Betsy Price First: 2011
Re-elected: 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019
Next: 2021
Born 1949
Tax assessor-collector for Tarrant County, 2001-2011;
Awarded title 'Mayor of Distinction' by World Mayor 2018
Party: Non-partisan
Fresno, California
Popl: 494,665
Mr. Lee Brand First: 2016
Next: November 2020
City Council, 2009-2017
Party: Republican
Houston, Texas
Popl: 2,099,451
Mr. Sylvester Turner First: December 2015; Mayor since January 2016; Re-elected November 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1954
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1989 to 2016
Party: Democrat
Indianapolis, Indiana
Popl: 820,445
Mr. Joe Hogsett First: 2015; Re-elected November 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1956
Secretary of State of Indiana 1989-1995; US Attorney 2010-2014
Party: Democrat
Jacksonville, Florida
Popl: 821,784
Mr. Lenny Curry First: 2015; Re-elected March 2019; Next: 2023 Accountant and business owner. Former Chairman of the Florida Republican Party
Party: Republican
Kansas City, Missouri
Popl: 459,787
Mr. Quinton Lucas First: 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1985
City Council 2015-2019;
Party: Democrat
Las Vegas, Nevada
Popl: 583,756;
Mrs. Carolyn Goodman First: 2010; Re-elected June 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1939
Founder, president of Meadows School. Wife of previous mayor Oscar Goodman
Party: Independent
Long Beach, California
Popl: 462,257
Mr. Robert Garcia First: 2014; Re-elected: 2018; Next 2022 Born 1977
City Council 2009-2014
Party: Democrat
Los Angeles, California
Popl: 3,792,621
Mr. Eric Garcetti First: 2013; re-elected 2017; Next: 2021 Born 1971. City council 2001-2012. Council President 2006-2012.
Party: Democrat
Louisville, Kentucky
Popl: 597,337
Mr. Greg Fischer First: 2010; Re-elected: 2018; Next: 2022 Born 1958
Co-invented the SerVend ice/beverage dispenser. Co-founder of bCatalyst
Party: Democrat
Memphis, Tennessee
Popl: 646,889
Mr. Jim Strickland First: 2015; Re-elected October 2019;
Next: 2023
Partner, Kustoff & Strickland 1998-present; City Council 2007-2015
Party: Democrat
Mesa, Arizona
Popl: 439,041
Mr. John Giles First: August 2014; re-elected August 2016
Next: November 2020
City Council, 1996-2000
Party: Nonpartisan
Miami, Florida
Popl: 399,457
Mr. Francis Suarez First: 2017
Next: 2021
Born 1947
City Commissioner 2009-2017
Party: Republican
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Popl: 594,833
Mr. Tom Barrett First: 2003 Next: April 2020 Born 1953
US Congressman 1993-2003. Wisconsin State Senate 1989-1993
Party: Democrat
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Popl: 382,578
Mr. Jacob Frey First: 2017 Next: 2021

Born 1981
City council 2014-2018
Party: Democratic-Farmer-Labor

Nashville, Tennessee
Popl: 601,222;
Mr. David Briley Appointed 2018. Later won special election;
Next: 2022
Born 1964
Lawyer; Deputy Mayor 2015 to 2018
Party: Democrat
New Orelans, Louisiana
Popl: 370,000
Ms. LaToya Cantrell First: 2018
Next: 2022
Born 1972
City Council 2012-2018
Party: Democrat
New York City, New York
Popl: 8,175,133
Mr. Bill de Blasio First: 2013; Re-elected 2017; Next: 2021 Born 1961
New York Public Advocate, 2009-2013. City Council 2001-2009.
Party: Democrat
Oakland, California
Popl: 390,724
Ms. Libby Schaaf First: 2014; Re-elected 2018; Next: 2022 Born 1966
City Council 2011-2014. Public Affairs Director, Port of Oakland 2006-2010;
Shortlisted for 2018 World Mayor Prize
Party: Democrat
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Popl: 579,999
Mr. David Holt First elected: February 2018;
Next: 2022
Born 1979
Holds a BA and a Juris Doctor
Served on the Oklahoma State Senate from 2010 to 2018
Party: Republican
Omaha, Nebraska
Popl: 408,958
Ms. Jean Stothert First: 2013; Re-elected 2017; Re-elected: 2017; Next 2021 Born: 1954
City Council 2009-2013. Millard Board of Education 1997-2009
Party: Republican
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Popl: 1,526,006
Mr. James Francis Kenney First: 2015
Mayor since January 2016; Re-elected November 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1958
City Council 1992-2015
Party: Democrat
Phoenix, Arizona
Popl: 1,445,632
Ms. Kate Kallego First: March 2019;
Next: 2023
Born 1981;
Degrees from Albuquerque Acadamy and Harvard; Phoenix city councillor from 2013 to 2018;
Party: Democrat
Portland, Oregon
Popl: 583,776
Mr. Ted Wheeler First: 2016;
Next: May/November 2020
Born 1962
Oregon State Treasurer, 2010-2017
Chair of the County Commission of Multnomah County, 2007-2010
Party: Democrat
Raleigh, North Carolina
Popl: 403,892
Ms. Mary-Ann Baldwin First: 2019
Next: 2021
Born 1957
City Council 2007-2017
Party: Democrat
Sacramento, California
Popl: 466,488
Mr. Darrell Steinberg First: 2016
Next: March/November 2020
Born 1959
California Senate, 2006-2014
California State Assembly, 1998-2004
City Council, 1992-1998
Party: Democrat
San Antonio, Texas
Popl: 1,327,407
Mr. Ron Nirenberg First: 2017; Re-elected JNune 2019; Next: 2021 Born 1977
City Council 2013 to 2017
Party: Independent
San Diego, California
Popl: 1,307,40
Mr. Kevin Faulconer First: 2014
Re-elected: 2018;
Next: March/November 2020
Born 1967
Member of the city council from 2006 to 2014
Party: Republican
San Francisco, California
Popl: 805,235
Ms. London Breed First elected: June 2018; Re-elected for full term November 2019:
Next: 2023
Born 1974
BA from the University of California (1997), MA from the University of San Francisco (2012)
After her work for the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission, former mayor, Gavin Newson, appointed Ms Breed to the San Francisco Fire Commission.
In November 2012, Ms Breed was elected to the Board of Supervisors (city council) and was elected its President in 2015.
Party: Democrat
San Jose, California
Popl: 945,942
Mr. Sam Liccardo First: 2014;
Re-elected: 2018;
Next: 2022
Born 1970
City Council 2007-2014
Party: Democrat
Seattle, Washington
Popl: 608,660
Ms.Jenny Durkan First 2017; Next 2021 Born: 1958
US Attorney, Western District of Washington 2009-2014
Party: Democrat
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Popl: 391,906
Mr. Dewey Bartlett Jr. First: 2009; Re-elected: 2017; Next: June/ November 2020 Born 1947
City Council 1990-1994. President of Keener Oil and Gas Company
Party: Republican
Tucson, Arizona
Popl: 545,852
Ms. Regina Romero First: 2019;
Next: 2023
Born: 1974
City Council: 2007-2019
Party: Democrat
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Popl: 437,994
Mr. William Sessoms Jr. First: 2008
Re-elected: 2016
Next: November 2020
Born 1954
City Council 1988-2002. Vice Mayor 1992-2002
Party: Republican
Washington, D. C.
Popl: 601,723
Ms. Muriel Bowser First: 2014;
Re-elected: 2018;
Next: 2022
Born 1972
City Council 2007-2015
Party: Democrat
Wichita, Kansas
Popl: 382,368
Mr. Brandon Whipple First: 2019:
Next: 2023
Born: 1982
Kansas House of Representatives 2013-2019
Party: Democrat

*All population figures come from the 2010 US Census.