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What Exactly Is The Mayors Job

Campaign posters and early voting signs have proliferated along the roads like wildflowers lately as Austin prepares to elect a new mayor and city council. Voter turnout for municipal elections across the country is typically low and Austin is no exception. Despite being known as a city for politics, Austin voter turnout for the mayoral and city council races is usually around ten percent.

So, just how important is the mayor in a city that also has a city manager? The easiest way to explain the difference between the two is that the mayor is a political office and the city manager is a municipal employee, albeit an important one. According to a report by the Texas City Management Association, "The mayor and city council provide policy and political leadership for the city. However, the city manager will be responsible for implementing policy."

It is the job of the city manager to supervise department heads, prepare the budget, and coordinate departments. What then is the mayor's job?

According to the City of Austin website, the capital city practices a Council-Management form of government, as do most large cities across the country. This makes the position of the mayor largely a ceremonial one, along with being the presiding officer over the city council.

The elected mayor and the six-member city council are responsible for establishing policy through passing local ordinances, voting appropriations and creating an overall vision for the city. Will Wynn has served two terms as the 50th mayor of Austin with a vision of a strong downtown.

What are the visions of Austin held by the mayoral candidates vying to take Wynn's place? With a wide range of backgrounds and ages, the five candidates each have a unique take on the issues facing our growing city. According to Community Impact newspapers, native Austinite Lee Leffingwell would bring his military and airline pilot experience to "maintain the unique things about Austin through historic preservation." Leffingwell is also a supporter of small local businesses as a means of economic growth.

Former Austin Mayor (1977-1983) Carole Keeton Strayhorn seems focused on fiscal responsibility and transportation issues. Current council member Brewster McCracken would like to move over to the position of mayor with a vision of Austin's future as a clean energy city. He emphasizes economic growth and neighborhood improvements.

The two political newcomers to the mayoral race are David Buttross, a local businessman, and Josiah Ingalls, who works at Hilton Austin as a housekeeper. Both candidates would like to see the city reign in spending, while Buttross also has an emphasis on better support and training for municipal services like fire and police. Ingalls would like to see Austin held accountable for how it spends every penny of the budget. Also, four of the six city council places are up for election.

Fresh on the heels of the high-voter turnout of the November presidential election, most Austinites know exactly where to go to vote and may still have their voter registration card handy. It only takes a few minutes to vote, as the lines aren't likely to be long in Saturday's municipal elections. The city manager may bear the responsibility of the city's day-to-day operations, however it is the mayor and city council who craft the policies of Austin's future. And it's the voter who bears the responsibility for deciding just exactly who that mayor and council will be.