What Level of Government Is a Mayor?

Rahm Emanuel took office as mayor of Chicago in 2011.
... Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Mayor is an ancient office, taking its name from a category of post-Roman officials; the elected leader of London first took the title “Lord Mayor” around 1190, according to John Cannon, in “The Oxford Companion to British History.” The title grew in popularity in Britain and, later, the U.S., and is today the commonplace term for the leader of a municipal government.

1 Mayoral Politics are Local

In the U.S., municipal government concerns the most local levels of authority, such as cities, towns, counties, boroughs, parishes, townships and villages. The mayor of a large city, such as New York City or Chicago, may head a municipal administration that has hundreds of employees and millions of constituents, but the jurisdiction is still local in focus. Municipal governments typically oversee such local concerns as police, utilities, libraries, parks and road maintenance. Municipalities fall within state governments in the U.S.; in turn, this mid-level government falls within the largest administration, the federal level. According to the White House guide to American state and local governments, state governments have authority for granting powers to municipalities, placing state governors in direct authority over mayors.

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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