VOL. 125 | NO. 172 | Friday, September 3, 2010
Mayor at Heart of Consolidated Government
By Bill Dries
A consolidated city and county government would have a strong metro mayor with centralized power.
The proposed metro charter that goes to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot chooses the strong mayor model from the existing city of Memphis charter over the mayoral model in the Shelby County charter.
But the charter provisions are not an exact match. Some changes were prompted by recent controversies at City Hall including last year’s resignation of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and attempts by interim mayor Myron Lowery to fire city attorney Elbert Jefferson.
The metro mayor is elected to four-year terms the same even numbered years that council members are elected. There is a limit of two consecutive terms. Serving a partial term does not count toward the term limit.
This is the second in a series of articles detailing parts of the metro government charter on the Nov. 2 ballot. The series will continue each Friday through Oct. 29.
It is a full-time job that pays $171,500, the same salary now made by the mayor of Memphis.
Candidates for the office must be 21 years old, registered to vote, current on all local taxes and have lived in Shelby County for at least one year.
The mayor has the power to sign and execute contracts between the city and outside companies and agencies. But if the amount of a contract is over one-twentieth of a percent of the annual operating budget, the mayor must get the approval of the metro council.
The Inner Circle:
The mayor appoints and the council confirms a chief administrative officer and a public relations officer. The mayor can also appoint additional “deputy officers” to be part of his inner circle of advisers without council approval.
The metro mayor appoints the heads of departments or divisions of the metropolitan government. All are subject to confirmation by the metro council.
There are three “first departments” of the executive, meaning they must be created and can only be changed by ordinance. They are fire services, law enforcement, and transportation and public works.
There are three “first administrative offices” of the executive branch that also can only be changed by ordinance. They are finance and strategic administration; inspector general; and general counsel.
The executive branch must have a department or independent agency of economic development that reports directly to the mayor.
There are six other functions the executive branch is responsible for. The charter leaves their structure and the creation of any new departments to the new administration. They are health, environment, parks, neighborhoods, cultural services, planning, community development and emergency preparedness.
Resignations and Departures:
The mayor, like all other metro elected officials, submits his or her letter of resignation to the chairman of the metro council. The letter states the effective date of the resignation. Once the letter is given to the chairman it cannot be taken back.
If the mayor leaves, the council sets an election within 80 days. If a regularly scheduled election is within a month of the time under state law to have the election, the election can be held on that date.
The metro council chairman becomes acting mayor until the election for an interim mayor is decided. The acting mayor cannot run for interim mayor. If the chairman or vice chairman don’t want to become mayor, the council makes an appointment.