From the Desk of the Mayor October 2021
“What do you do as mayor?” After nearly 2 years as mayor of Longview, I still get asked that question. It’s a great question, and the answer partly lies in the way a city’s governing body is structured. There are two different ways a mayor can function depending on how the city is set up.
In government-speak, there are “strong” mayors and “weak” mayors, which denotes how much authority is given to the mayor role based on the form of city government. A strong mayor operates in a council/mayor form of government, where the mayor is elected by the people, has strong executive powers, and directly manages the city staff/departments. Generally speaking, you’ll see this kind of mayor on TV or in the media as the spokesperson for the city that makes executive decisions.
In contrast, a weak mayor operates in a council/manager form of government (this is how Longview is organized), where the mayor is elected by the council body, but the power of the role is limited. The mayor is head of the city council and works with the council to make policy which is then carried out by the city manager, who directly manages the city staff/departments. The city manager is actually hired by the city council and is the council’s one employee. The term weak mayor is not a reflection of the effectiveness of the duties of the mayor in that form of city government.
Part of my role as mayor does include “cutting ribbons and kissing babies”, so to speak, which is a fantastic way to celebrate the wins that come through the dedicated work of the council; but a large portion of my time is spent presiding at council meetings to make policy, communicating consistent positive messaging with the city manager, council and staff, and keeping the lines of communication open and transparent with community and business leaders, and with county and state elected officials.
In Cowlitz County there are five cities, the two largest of which (Kelso and Longview) have a weak mayor, or council/manager form of government. The remaining three cities (Kalama, Woodland and Castle Rock) have a strong mayor, or council/mayor form of government.
So, what does all this mean to the citizens of Longview, and what do I do as mayor? When I was elected mayor by my council peers in January of 2020, I took an oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Washington, and all local ordinances, and that I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of Mayor according to the law and the best of my ability.
As Longview’s 23rd Mayor, I want to affirm to you that I take that charge seriously and am grateful for the opportunity to serve our community in the office that I hold. I was elected to represent the people, and I do all I can in my power and authority to weigh public policies and facilitate community action that furthers a consistent respect for our city code, and for our state and federal constitutions. I continue to work tirelessly for our community each day, and I offer my time to citizens through calls, emails, and regular office hours and have pledged to be transparent, impartial and accessible to the council and citizens of the city.
In a nut shell, it is about connecting dots, building relationships, proposing solutions, and finding opportunities to better serve the citizens.
Thank you for your trust, support, and grace as I continue to work in your service.
Mayor MaryAlice Wallis