A mayor’s role, or how to take campaign promises with a grain of salt

Some grains of salt to consider…
When people think about local government, they often believe that the most important part of a councilmember’s job is making big decisions and coming up with amazing policies. Let’s take that with a grain of salt. My experience is that in local government, it’s the little things that matter more than the big things.

Partly this is due to the structure of city councils in most of Colorado. Colorado has a few “strong mayor” cities – think of Denver or Colorado Springs – but most cities in Colorado have a “strong city manager” structure. This means that the mayor in Sheridan is, for the most part, no more important than any other council member. The mayor differs from other councilmembers only in that their mandate is city-wide rather than from only one ward, and the mayor is the spokesperson and symbolic leader of the city.

In “strong city manager” cities, decision-making and policy-making is a team endeavor. No one member of the team can push through their own agenda.

So what makes a strong leader on the city council, if they can’t boss people around?

It’s the little things.

– It’s listening. When a resident or business has a complaint or a suggestion, you listen until you understand.

– It’s participating. You show up for meetings consistently. You are there when people are depending on you.

– It’s reading. When you get materials, you read them all, think about them, and understand them.

– It’s asking. You ask questions until you get it. You ask about why the city can’t do this or can do that.

– It’s getting out of the way. When you have a “strong city manager” structure, you hear great suggestions from your city manager and professional staff and let them do their jobs.

– It’s respecting. You show respect for the different opinions of the council, committees, and staff. You have a civil tongue and encourage everyone to share their thoughts.

Anytime you hear a mayoral candidate in Sheridan say that they will do something, think about what you just read here. Consider it with a grain of salt. Will that person really have the power to do what they are saying? The mayor is just one of seven members of the City Council. While they can set a vision, be a leader, and do their best to rally the council, they cannot dictate an outcome.

I believe in city government as a team sport. The mayor is like the captain. They may call the plays, but everyone has to execute together. I hope you will allow me to be the captain. I will listen to all of you as well as the council and staff to accomplish great things together. That’s a promise.

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