Shoutout to City Cast Salt Lake lead producer Emily Means for writing this handy-dandy explainer.
We’re barreling toward the November election, and at the top of the Salt Lake City municipal ticket is the mayoral race. This election season has been a bit contentious, but setting politics aside: What does the mayor actually do? Let’s explore the role of our city’s top elected official.
What kind of mayor does Salt Lake City have?
There are a few different forms of municipal government in Utah. In Salt Lake City, we have a council-mayor system. The mayor and council are separate but equal branches, with the mayor acting as the executive branch and the council as the legislative. You might also hear this called a “strong mayor” form of government.
Mayors serve four-year terms. The current mayor is Erin Mendenhall, who took office in 2020.
What does the mayor do?
Think of the mayor as the CEO of Salt Lake City. They set the vision and direction for the city.
As part of that vision, the mayor puts forth a yearly budget proposal, which the city council then analyzes, discusses, potentially amends, and ultimately approves. Additionally, the mayor appoints department heads, who help execute city initiatives.
The mayor also has emergency powers and can issue executive orders. We saw Mayor Mendenhall exercise these powers when she issued a mask mandate for schools during the pandemic or when she expanded the capacity of the homeless resource centers last winter.
Besides that, there’s the (sometimes) fun stuff, like being an ambassador for the city. You might see the mayor at ribbon cuttings or groundbreakings, meeting with dignitaries, and making connections with other government leaders. In some ways, we rely on our mayor to be the city’s chief champion.
How can you connect with the mayor?
Mayor Mendenhall also has a community outreach team, and those liaisons have been assigned to each council district. They hold office hours for you to drop in and say hi, complain about potholes, petition for more whale art, and talk about the real issues and opportunities you see for your community.