Per the TML Handbook for Mayors and Councilmembers:
The mayor occupies the highest elective office in the municipal government. As political head of the city, the mayor is expected to provide the leadership necessary to keep it moving in the proper direction.
Most of the powers exercised by the mayor are created through ordinances and resolutions adopted by the city council. Very few mayoral powers are prescribed by state law.
The mayor’s most important duty is to carry out the legislative responsibilities he or she shares with other members of the council— identifying the needs of the city, developing programs to satisfy those needs, and evaluating the extent to which municipal services satisfactorily reflect the policy goals of the council.
Under the law, the mayor is the presiding officer of the city council. In this capacity as presiding officer, the mayor’s actual powers in legislative matters can be greater than those of other councilmembers. For example, the mayor can influence the flow of debate through the power to recognize councilmembers for motions or statements.
Also, the mayor rules on questions of procedure at council meetings, and those rulings are binding unless successfully challenged by a majority of the governing body. Finally, the mayor of a Type A general law city can formally object to ordinances and other resolutions passed by the council. If the mayor objects to an ordinance or resolution before the fourth day after it is placed in the city secretary’s office, it must be reconsidered by the governing body. If approved, it becomes effective (Local Government Code Section 52.003).
Appointive powers represent another area in which the mayor’s powers often outrank those of councilmembers, especially when the mayor is authorized by ordinance to appoint department heads and advisory board members. In Chapter 25 council-manager cities, the mayor’s appointive powers are more limited, because the city manager may appoint all or most administrative employees. Although most of the mayor’s appointive powers are established by ordinances enacted by the city council, some are established by state law, such as the power to appoint commissioners of a housing authority (Local Government Code Section 392.031).
Law Enforcement and Related Duties of the Mayor
The office of the mayor involves a variety of law enforcement responsibilities. The mayor is specifically obligated by law to “actively ensure that the laws and ordinances of the city are properly carried out,” and “in the event of a riot or unlawful assembly or to preserve the peace,” the mayor may order the closing of certain public places.
Under extreme circumstances, as in the case of a riot, the mayor of a Type A general law city can summon a special police force into service (Local Government Code Section 341.011) or call for assistance from the Texas National Guard. Also, if the city has used the provisions of Sections 362.001 et seq., Local Government Code, to enter into a mutual law enforcement pact with other nearby cities or the county, the mayor can call on those localities for help in dealing with civil disorders and other emergencies. Additionally, most local emergency management plans authorize the mayor to exercise supreme powers in case of a public calamity, after the mayor has declared a local disaster or asked the governor to declare a state of emergency. State law also permits a mayor to require a mandatory evacuation order and control who can access an area during a phased reentry (Government Code Chapters 418 and 433).
Judge of the Municipal Court
In every general law city where no separate office of judge of the municipal court exists by ordinance, the mayor is ex officio judge of the court (Government Code Section 29.004). A mayor serving as the ex officio municipal judge must still receive the annual training required of all municipal judges.
As signatory for the city, the mayor maybe required to sign a variety of documents to give them official legal effect. The mayor’s signature is required on all bonds, certificates of obligation, warrants, and other evidence of debt, as well as may be required on ordinances, resolutions, advertisements for bids on public works projects, contracts, and similar legal paperwork. The mayor is also responsible for signing proclamations recognizing special events and personal achievements.
The mayor’s participation in local ceremonial events is a never-ending responsibility. The mayor is expected on a daily basis to cut ribbons at ceremonies opening new businesses; break the ground to begin the construction of new city facilities; and regularly appear at fairs, parades, beauty pageants, and other community celebrations.
The mayor also issues proclamations for a variety of purposes, whether to honor visiting dignitaries or declare “Support Your Local School Week.” And as a featured speaker before professional clubs, school assemblies, and neighborhood groups, the mayor can expect to be interviewed, photographed, and otherwise placed on extensive public display by the media.
Except in Chapter 25 council-manager cities, the mayor serves in the dual roles of administrator and political head of the city, going to city hall on a regular basis, working with department heads on matters that need attention each day, and performing the ceremonial duties that go with the office. In some cases, ordinances approved by the council give the mayor wide latitude to deal with the many problems that arise each day. Also, an administrative staff is sometimes available to help the mayor, but the office still involves considerably more effort—and power—than its counterpart in cities operating under the city manager plan.
Limitations on the Mayor’s Powers
The broad powers of the mayor can be offset by several methods, including ordinance requirements that the council ratify mayoral appointments and other key actions.
Limiting the mayor’s power at the council table is another way of imposing restraints. In Type A general law cities, for instance, the mayor is allowed to vote only in the event of a tie (Local Government Code Section 22.037). As state law is unclear on the mayor’s ability to vote in Type B general law cities, those cities should consult with their local legal counsel with questions.
The mayor’s prerogatives can also be restricted by the structure of the city government. Under the Chapter 25 council manager plan, for example, the mayor has no administrative powers and will probably be in city hall on a less frequent basis. The ordinances of most council-manager cities also make it clear that decision-making is to be shared by the full council, and that the mayor is to be considered the same as any other member of the governing body for policy purposes. This is accomplished by concentrating administrative powers in the hands of a city manager, who acts under the direction of the full council.