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What does a Deputy Mayor do?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A deputy mayor serves as a subordinate and assistant to the mayor of a city. There is no single standard job description for a deputy mayor, because city governance in most nations is not standardized. Some deputy mayors are elected and have a mix of political and administrative duties. Not all deputy mayors are elected however, and some serve primarily as appointed technocratic administrators.

A deputy mayor is generally either selected and appointed to office or elected. In some cases, the deputy mayor is selected from within the ranks of the city council, but other cities allow the mayor or city council much broader leeway in choosing a deputy mayor. A smaller number of deputy mayors are elected to their position, either on a single ticket with the mayor or, much more rarely, as an independent candidate running separately.

The duties of a deputy mayor vary as greatly as do the methods for choosing them. Some deputy mayors serve only as temporary replacements when the mayor is unavailable. Others have distinct but subordinate administrative duties. Almost all deputy mayors serve as acting mayor when the mayor is no longer able to fulfill their duties, until they can be replaced using whatever electoral or other process a given city normally uses to choose a new mayor. This allows for continuity of government in the event that some misfortune befalls the mayor.

In some large cities such as Washington, DC deputy mayors serve as the heads of subsections of the city government. These deputy mayors each oversee one or more critical areas of city policy, in much the same way that a cabinet minister or secretary oversees some element of national government. In Washington DC, for example, there are deputy mayors responsible for education, planning and development and policy relating to children, youth, families and the elderly.

New York makes very extensive use of deputy mayors as part of its administrative structure. In New York, however, perhaps as a result of the city’s role in the world of business, the various deputy mayors have portfolios that more closely mirror the chief officers of a large corporation. New York uses a total of seven deputy mayors who are specifically responsible for education, economic development, legal counsel to the mayor, health and human services, communications and the oversight of operations. New York also has a First Deputy Mayor, who lacks a specific portfolio and serves as a general deputy to the mayor.

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