What Makes a Good Mayor?

Mayor Attributes

A recent survey asked mayors across the country what two traits they believe are most important to effectiveness in office. The number one answer was interpersonal and social skills. With a mind to the upcoming election the survey inspired me to make my own list. Take a look and let me know what you think. Except for the first two they aren’t in order.

  1. Trustworthiness and Transparency: To me these two traits go hand in hand. Is the candidate the same on the outside as they are on the inside? Do they take the time to explain their agenda and do you believe them? This one didn’t start at the top of my list but as I thought about it I felt like nothing else mattered if there was no trust.
  2. Visionary: To me the most important trait of a mayor is the ability to see a vision of the greatness of the city, chart the course, bring others along and then make it happen.
  3. Business Experience: Whomever the residents choose should know that he or she will be essentially the CEO of a $200 million operation with very diverse interests. It’s a “company” that provides power, builds roads, reserves parks, plans communities, issues citations, cleans water, picks up trash, balances a budget, puts our fires, organizes sports events, and even occasionally removes cats from trees. It’s also important that the mayor understands issues like employee moral, discipline, incentives and how to best work with our awesome employees.
  4. Public Speaking: Can the person feel comfortable in front of a crowd (sometimes an angry one) and defuse a situation? The Jason Chaffetz town hall meeting is a good reminder of how difficult this can be.
  5. Chief Fundraiser: The mayor will often find themselves making asks for financial help. From several thousand dollars for the Christmas CD to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the arts. During my term I estimate I’ve raised almost a million dollars a year from private donations.
  6. Communicator: I learned quickly that no matter how well we do at communication it’s not enough. Employees, residents, businesses, and community partners all expect and need to know what’s happening in the city. This role also includes Chief Cheerleader. Spreading the good word of all that is happening in Provo is fun and it’s also the responsibility of the mayor.
  7. Negotiator: Some of my funnest moments as mayor have come as we’ve negotiated difficult deals. The stakes are high and the ability to carefully reach a conclusion on the best interest of the city is a critical part of being mayor.
  8. Facilitator: I’ve appreciated that our residents are extremely willing to respond when I ask for their help. The mayor has a special ability to convene groups and focus them on everything from finding consensus on an issue to tackling a difficult service project.
  9. Confidence: There are a lot of difficult decisions as a mayor and they often impose a hardship on some but are in the greater good of the overall community. If a mayor doesn’t have the confidence that it’s the right thing to do they don’t stand a chance of making it happen.
  10. Patience: I must admit that I’m not a natural at this one but it’s important. Taking the time to slow down and listen, sitting through hours and hours of meetings, meeting with everyone that wants to meet with you, responding to all your emails all are important and can sometimes take way to much time. Even if it doesn’t come natural, the mayor needs to understand it’s part of the deal (and smile).

A portion of my decision not to run for a third term was based on a belief that we had some amazingly qualified candidates waiting in the wings for their turn. I must say that I’m pleased with the announcements of candidates at this early stage and with others I know who are considering jumping into the race.

Provo is blessed with a host of very talented men and women. I’m fully confident that one of them will be able to take Provo to the next level and do even better than I have done.

I’m frequently asked who I will be supporting. This is a hard question because I consider these candidates to be good friends each with a unique set of qualifications. It is my intention not to endorse any of the candidates. I believe the upcoming election will give us all a time to assess these candidates, their background and qualifications and so that we can make the best decision for Provo.

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