In Utah, the days of the Town Marshal, the mine owner, the vicar or bishop managing your city are long gone. Instead, the structured powers and duties of elected municipal officials are dependent on the form of government chosen by residents.
In what is now called the Forms of Municipal Government Chapter of state code (Utah Code 10-3b-101), there are three options. All are classified as government by committee, but represent very different styles of how cities are governed. The choices are the five-member council; the six-member council; and council-mayor form.
The mayor of a five- or six-member council form of government does not have the power to veto any council act; under a mayor-council form, a mayor is free to veto ordinance enactment.
The mayor is the council chair in all municipalities, except those organized under the council-mayor form, and presides at meetings of the council.
If the mayor is absent, unable to or unwilling to act in the capacity of their office, the council has an authorized member to preside over the meeting as mayor pro tempore. She/he has all the powers and duties of a mayor in their absence and may still vote as a council member even though they are presiding at the meeting. They cannot, however, cast two votes if there is a tie with a six- member council.
The five-member council governing body is an assembly of five elected individuals. One of them is the mayor and the other four are council members. Mayors in this form of government are full voting members of the governing body on anything that is brought before it. Huntsville operates with this form of government.
In a six-member council form, one is the mayor and the remaining five are council members. The mayor presides over the governing body, but in a six-member council they do not vote, except in the case of a council’s tie vote or on the matter of hiring or discharging a city manager. Layton is governed under this form.
With the council-mayor form, the government of a municipality rests in two separate, independent and equal branches of city government: The executive branch, consisting of a mayor, the administration departments and its officers, and the legislative branch consisting of a municipal council.
There is a complete separation of powers between the executive authority vested in the mayor and the legislative authority vested in the city council. In this form of government, the council chair is selected by the council from among its members.
The relationship of the mayor to the council under this type of government is akin to that of the president to Congress or the governor to the Legislature. Ogden uses this form of government.
This is contrasted to the five- and six-member council forms of government where there is no separation of powers and the executive and legislative power is all contained in a governing body consisting of the mayor and council.
Take a minute and call your city and ask what the form of government is.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org