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MAYOR in HINDSIGHT: False narrative that the mayor, reeve and councillors are equals

A mayor, reeve and councillors are all called councillors within the Alberta legislation.

A mayor, reeve and councillors are all called councillors within the Alberta legislation. So what? Many of these members of a municipal council across Alberta (and many of us in the public) assume that particular definition means that each member on a council is equal in every category of activity. This is so wrong.

Here is how it really works.

The legislation outlines that there are some similarities of duties for a mayor, reeve or individual councillors such as each having the right to one vote at a council meeting. Each person’s vote counts as one, but that about is where the similarity ends. Even during a meeting while debating matters, the mayor/reeve often has more influence due to the weight of the title. There are rebellious councillors of course who vote against the mayor/reeve out of principle. Others vote with the mayor/reeve out of a show of respect for the title. Yes, both these scenarios happens in Alberta.

Additionally, the mayor/reeve is deemed full time in some jurisdictions while the other members called councillors are part time. This is for good reason. Much of the correspondence is addressed to the mayor/reeve, invitations to speak, requests by the public, official spokesperson obligations and other duties to the mayor/reeve. When a school invites a mayor/reeve to an event with students, the students care more if the mayor/reeve shows up and care less if a councillor shows up instead. In the eyes of the students the mayor/reeve carries more weight, prestige and power. The same goes for some members of the general public. Indeed the carrying of weight is true. Inside some council chambers across Alberta, some councillors like to believe the weighting to be equal but, it is not equal, other than the actual counting of votes.

The mayor/reeve is required to chair the council meetings, and by default the mayor/reeve therefore becomes more responsible for the performance feedback and evaluation of council’s performance and that of the chief administrative officers (the manager for the municipality).

The mayor/reeve is held to a higher standard, they are always paid more than their councillor colleagues and the mayor/reeves bear the brunt of the criticism, praise and pressure on matters affecting their community.

The mayor/reeve is the sole person who an RCMP contract is signed with, and often elected officials from other orders of government will accept a phone call or meeting with the mayor/reeve but will not accept a call or meeting with councillors. The mayor/reeve speaks at press conferences, decides or reads proclamations, and assists businesses in their grand openings. In many communities businesses, schools and other organizations schedule their events around the mayor/reeve availabilities.

In many communities, it is the mayor/reeve who sets the council agendas every week (together with the CAO) for their upcoming meetings.

In many municipalities, the mayor/reeve decides who sits on which committees, signs all correspondence, and co-signs all financial disbursements.

Councils that try to have a group decision on everything that comes to the mayor/reeve for a decision, will grind their decision making to a halt. And that happens with some councils.

And folks, that is how it really works.