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The mayor is the chief elected official for municipal governments in the United States. Mayoral duties and salaries vary widely from one place to the next, in part due to two different forms of mayor-council rule -- strong mayor and weak mayor. In many towns and small cities, the mayor’s role is part-time. It is not unusual to find significant variations in how much mayors are paid. For example, in a 2013 survey by NBC News in Miami, most mayoral salaries in south Florida varied from under $10,000 per year to more than $200,000, while some mayors earned nothing at all from the position. The Simply Hired career website put the average salary of all U.S. mayors at $62,000 a year as of November 2014.
A “weak mayor” tends to draw a lower salary because of his limited powers. In this system, the city or town council members hold more power than the mayor, and an appointed city manager or administrator serves as the chief executive and runs operational departments on a daily basis. In contrast, a strong mayor system gives the mayor the power to prepare budgets, veto legislation and appoint or remove department heads. A strong mayor typically serves as a full-time chief executive and is usually paid more than a weak mayor. This form of municipal government is used by most large cities in the United States.
Mayor and Other Municipal Officials
It is not unusual for a mayor to be paid less than other municipal officials -- especially in a weak mayor system. In a 2009 survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association, average annual salaries for 23 municipal positions ranged from $51,918 for the chief elected official to $106,408 for the city manager or chief administrative officer. Additional examples in the survey include $67,101 for chief librarian and $76,587 for the Parks and Recreation director. In an October 2014 update, the ICMA reports that the median base salary for chief appointed officials such as city managers was $122,925.
2014 Data for Indiana’s Mayors
A November 2014 survey conducted by the Indianapolis Star reveals how much mayoral salaries can vary in one state. Yearly salaries for the 16 highest-paid mayors ranged from $74,494 to $129,922. The mayor of the largest city, Indianapolis, ranked only 8th in annual salary at $102,620. Additionally, the administrator for a town with a population of 23,413 made $135,965 a year -- more than any of the state’s highest-paid mayors.
Mayors Can Wear Several Hats
In some municipalities, mayors serve multiple roles and often receive a higher salary in the bargain. For example, as of publication the mayor of Beachwood, Ohio -- a Cleveland suburb with a population of 12,000 -- earned an annual base salary of $175,000. However, he also serves as safety director. According to the ICMA, the average annual salary for a safety director was $87,997. In comparison, the governor of Ohio received a base pay of $148,000 annually.
- City Mayors: U.S. Mayors
- NBC Miami: Salaries of South Florida Mayors
- National League of Cities: Average Salaries of Municipal Officials
- ICMA: ICMA 2014 CAO Salary Survey Results
- IndyStar: Who Are Indiana's Highest Paid Mayors
- Cleveland.com: Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden Collecting $350,000 In Pay, Retirement Benefits; May Get Raise
- Simply Hired: Average Mayor Salaries
Stephen Bush is based in Ohio and has been a business finance consultant and writer for more than 30 years. Bush obtained a Master of Business Administration in management and finance at the University of California, Los Angeles.