Changing Roles for the Mayor and City Council

Information
A view of City Hall's Fourth Street entrance from Madison Street.
The roles of the mayor and city council will change in 2025. These changing roles are defined by the Portland City Charter revisions passed by voters, and additional changes to the City’s systems are needed to support and benefit these new roles.
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Transitioning to a mayor-council form of government

The transition team is leading the work to clarify and plan for the new roles and responsibilities of the City’s future elected officials. To do this, the transition team is working with city partners to understand how council meetings and the policy process will change under the mayor-council form of government. They are also working with the Government Transition Advisory Committee to seek community input about their ideas and desired outcomes for participating in the future council’s policy discussions beginning in January 2025.

Characteristics of a Mayor-Council Form of Government 

  • Mayor is elected separately from the council, is often full-time and paid, with significant administrative authority. 

  • Depending on the municipal charter, the mayor could have weak or strong powers. 

  • Council is elected and maintains legislative powers. 

  • Some cities appoint a professional manager or city administrator who maintains limited administrative authority. 

This is the second most common form of government. It is found mostly (but not exclusively) in older, larger cities, or in very small cities, and is most popular in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Cities with variations in the mayor-council form of government are New York, New York; Houston, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Research and Best Practices

Since 2023, research and analysis has been underway to understand:

  • How the executive mayor and city administrator will work together to lead the City’s day-to-day operations;
     
  • How these roles will work with a legislative council; and
     
  • How to best support the new council in operating and developing policy in a way that is accessible to the community.

Outcomes of this research and analysis are informing initial code, budget, staffing and process changes to set leadership up for success under the mayor-council system.  

The team studied and met with other cities with mayor-council governments to learn their best practices to prepare for this transition. The transition team continues to engage city council to guide recommendations about the various changes to set up the new council for success.

In September 2023, the transition team and city partners proposed community-informed revisions to the City’s code on council organization to match the updated city charter and to guide council meetings starting in 2025.

City Council approved these revisions to City Code Chapter 3.02, which provided helpful information about the changing roles of elected officials for interested candidates. Work will continue in 2024 to match other chapters of City Code the updated City Charter.

Organizational Chart Focusing on Council Operations

Part of the organizational chart that was approved by council last November related to staffing to support the elected officials under the mayor-council form of government. The transition team’s recommendation was for each councilor to have two dedicated council aides to handle a range of different communications, constituent relations, policy, and elected support functions. The second recommended council aide position was not included in appropriation level adjustments approved by council in November 2023, but the ongoing budget process will determine City Council’s final decisions on how many and what positions to fund.

A shared staffing group shown in grey provides additional, more permanent staff to support a sustainable and effective legislative process. The mayor will be supported by an executive assistant, a chief of staff, and three mayoral aids, one senior. One of the first orders of business for council in 2025 is to elect a council president and vice president.

Learn more about the approved organizational charts on the City Organization page.

Future Council Operations for the 2025 City Council 

The future legislative council will be the policy body for the City of Portland. They will convene public meetings, gather input, debate, and evaluate policy choices and adopt laws to reflect those choices. The future council will continue to approve the budget, can issue bonds, levy taxes, and set most rates and fees. The City Charter amendments approved by voters in 2022 explicitly prohibit the council from exercising the executive and administrative powers granted to the mayor.

Starting January 2025, the Mayor will no longer serve on council. Instead, they will lead the executive branch and have administrative authority. The future Mayor will appoint, and council will confirm, a professional city administrator. The mayor and city administrator will work together to implement the laws and policies developed by council and will manage all city bureaus. The mayor will also develop and propose the city’s budget to council for review and approval. 

This means that the mayor will be accountable to all administrative issues instead of the multiple commissioners-in-charge that we have today. The city will continue to host meetings, events, and surveys to understand what programs or projects should be created or could be improved. The community should focus on reaching out to the mayor and city administrator about service delivery questions and improvements. 

City Council Sets Citywide Policy

Mayor Oversees City Services

Engages the public on community needs.Engages with staff and leadership on City operational needs.
Sets the direction of city government through a strategic planning process, usually with the help of a city administrator.Leads implementation of council’s strategic plan, with help from City leadership.
Approves the City budget in accordance with the strategic plan.Proposes necessary budget funding to implement the strategic plan.
Approves policies as necessary to respond to community or organizational issues and to achieve strategic outcomes.Requests development of policies to address community or operational issues or to achieve strategic outcomes. 

When should you contact city council? 

Contact the city councilors representing your district to highlight a pattern of issues in your community or to encourage them to advocate for budget allocations to resolve these issues.

Ways to engage with your councilors: 

  • Attend or provide input at a council committee or regular meetings.
  • Participate in council-hosted meetings, events and town halls.
  • Call or provide written input to council offices.

When should you contact the mayor?

Contact the mayor to improve a program that is important to you or help a bureau improve their service.

Ways to engage with the mayor: 

  • Participate in City-hosted meetings, events, and surveys.
  • Apply to serve on a City advisory board, committee or commission.
  • Call or provide written input to the mayor’s office.

Learn more about city council committees and future council agenda items.

Read through the Form of Government Glossary.

Past Events

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