The paper aims to compare the office of directly elected mayor in England, Germany and the USA. Proposing and applying a conceptual model of government, governance and allegiance, it assesses the leadership role of the elected mayor in the three countries.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of mayors in each country over a period of 11 years. These formed part of the authors' continuing research into local leadership and political management, which has also included interviews with ex‐mayors, elected representatives and senior officials.
The operation and success of the elected mayor in specific countries is influenced by formal variables (e.g. state constitutions, formal requirements) and informal relationships (e.g. with officials), represented in the distinction between structure and agency. The role of the individual mayor also varied in the light of local party affiliations. The paper considers the impact of these variables on the government, governance and allegiance functions of the elected mayor.
In providing an analytical framework and in the discussion of original research, a basis is provided for the further study of the office of elected mayor in different national contexts. This is likely to prove valuable as the future of sub‐national government is subject to continuity scrutiny.
The adoption and growth of the elected mayoral system may be considered as an example of lesson drawing. This has both positive and negative implications. Positively, much can be learned from comparative experience. Mayoral systems have resulted in quicker decision making. The mayor provides a very visible form of local leadership and accountability. However, dangers lie in the over‐concentration of powers in the office of mayor and, in England especially, the failure of the mayoral system to enhance public engagement in local government.
The discussion will be of value to practitioners, policy‐makers and academic researchers who are concerned with the future of the elected local state and its office holders.
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