Secrets Mayors Won’t Tell You


I saw an article in Reader’s Digest titled, 13 Secrets Mayors Won’t Tell You. I got such a kick out of it that I decided to share it on my blog. I, of course, have editorialized with my comments (in red).

1. You really can change our minds. A well-informed citizen who gets up and speaks at a meeting on an issue can be very compelling. But you have to be well-informed. And you have to do it in a respectful manner. Don’t get up and start calling us a bunch of bozos or berate us. The thing I dislike the most are the pitches that start with, “You know I voted for you.”

2. In small cities, residents are always telling us they want certain stores and restaurants to come to town. Well, so do I. But I can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly make an Olive Garden appear. It’s a free country, and retailers get to choose where they want to locate. I get this mostly from my kids.

3. The politics can be very petty and sometimes mean-spirited. The council wasn’t happy when I got elected, so the first vote they took was to take the reserved parking space away from me. It was the height of immaturity. Ha, this is the last of my worries. 

4. It’s easier to pass a $20 million water-treatment project than it is to spend a few thousand dollars on new laptop computers for the police squad cars. People’s eyes tend to glaze over when you review the details of a big project. But small costs are a lot easier to grasp, so people jump all over them and the money. Very true. Some of the toughest comments from residents came when the council added 12 inches to the height of the dais. 

5. In most cities, whether you elect a Republican or Democrat makes very little difference. Most of our responsibilities—ensuring the streets are plowed, the parks are in good condition, and the library stays open—are nuts-and-bolts issues, and there’s no partisanship in them. 6 I’m not as powerful as you think. If your town has a council-manager form of government, I don’t actually run your city—the city manager does. And most policy decisions come down to a vote from the full council. All I can do is lead them in the right direction. 100% right. I am so glad I don’t need to worry about party politics. 

6. I’m not as powerful as you think. If your town has a council-manager form of government, I don’t actually run your city; the city manager does. And most policy decisions come down to a vote from the full council. All I can do is lead them in the right direction. Not our form of government but still very true.

7. People are always surprised when they see me out grocery shopping. They’ll say, “Oh, you do your own shopping?” Well, what do you think? I’m just a regular guy who cares about the community. I’d prefer Sue never realized I’m a regular guy.

8. One of my favorite moments was when we had a shelter open because we had houses without power and heat. One family was really worrying about the dog they’d left at home, but the public works department wasn’t letting any cars on the road. So I said, “Hop in,” and I drove them up to their house. They were able to take their dog back to the shelter, and they were so appreciative. This is a good mayor.

9. If you have an idea, bring it to me. The cool thing about being mayor is that, unlike at the state and national levels, you can make a decision and often see concrete results. I love how much can get done at the local level. I feel sorry for the politicians that are stuck in large scale bureaucracy. 

10. When it comes down to it, most people fear change. Many projects that people hate at first—the ones they complain loudest about—end up being much loved after they’re built. Some of our most controversial projects are now icons that everyone in the city is proud of. True, true true and more true

11. We never tell residents that the mayor is on vacation. Even when I really am on vacation, my staff will shut my office door and simply say the mayor is unavailable. Wait, the mayor gets vacation?

12. Taxes are always too high. No matter where I go or whom I talk to, that’s the first thing people say. The second thing they do is list all the things we need. But those things cost money. We’re lucky in Provo that I only hear this from a few. A recent pole found that 84% of our residents think they get a good to excellent value for their tax dollar in Provo.

13. In some states, we can legally marry people. That’s a lot of fun, one of the best perks of the job. Not sure I’ve ever seen this as the best part of my job but it is pretty cool.
Sources: Andy Berke, mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Alex Morse, mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts; Alex Torpey, mayor of South Orange, New Jersey; Don Ness, mayor of Duluth, Minnesota; Richard Martin, former mayor of Sarasota, Florida; Gary C. Smith, former mayor of Galesburg, Illinois; Maria Harkey, former mayor of West Milford, New Jersey

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  1. Aaron Holloway

    Thank you for sharing! It really helps to know what our elected officials are thinking, and what the experience is like for you. It really helps to bring it into prospective.

  2. Scott


    I love #10 because it reminds me of the following quote from Arthur Schopenhauer:

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

  3. Tiffany

    This is great! And you are awesome.

  4. Hamlet

    Loved reading through your comments Mayor Curtis! Always appreciating the work that you and your team are doing.

  5. Nat Robertson

    I guess it really doesn’t matter where you live…the issues are the same. Thanks for sharing this. Mayors everywhere can relate.

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