Since 2008, the rise of Sarah Palin to the status of a famous (or infamous, depending on who you talk to) figure in American politics has helped to highlight the office of the small town mayor and its role in American politics. The mayor in many small towns across the United States holds a position with duties that often vary according to the laws of the individual town itself. There are, however, common duties that most mayors share as part of their job.
The mayor is an elected official and, as such, serves as the chief representative of the people. In meetings with the city council, the mayor must take into account his role as the chief representative and keep the needs of the people in mind.
The mayor, with the input of the city council, is also responsible for establishing laws that are meant to benefit the people of the community. The way in which this process is carried out varies from town to town. Typically, it is the city council that puts forth proposals at meetings that are then voted on by the council members. In most towns, the mayor has the power to veto resolutions passed by the council. The council usually has the power to override a mayor's veto.
Some small towns have government officials who are not elected by the people. Some mayors are responsible for appointing these officials to their posts. For instance, in the town of Algona, Iowa, the mayor appoints officials such as the fire chief, the board of trustees for the city library and the chief of police.
The mayor also serves as the chief presiding officer in city council meetings. The mayor uses the predetermined agenda to keep the meeting moving along toward completion. When issues need to be debated among council members, the mayor serves as the one who recognizes council members to speak and ensures that the meeting is moving along at a pace that is conducive to accomplishing city business.
The small town mayor also takes care of various administrative duties. These can include a wide variety of tasks. In some cases, the mayor signs contracts on behalf of the city and secures professional services when needed. The mayor may also sign various permits and licenses as needed by the members of the community.