What are the roles of council members and mayor?
~ by Val Carr ~
Many people ask me what is it that a Woodland Park City Council member and Mayor do, and what is the commitment in time, travel, and expenses to execute those duties the voters who put them in office should expect, from my actual experience?
The Mayor has additional duties and responsibilities that each Council member has, so let’s start with what each Council member (including the Mayor) has on their plate (actual or expected). The weekly work load varies wildly depending on the time of year, but a weekly average would suffice to demonstrate the magnitude of the expected work load for all fully engaged Council members.
Council members prepare for and attend regular meetings, special meetings, executive sessions, and work sessions. They meet and talk with other Council members individually. They have liaison duties for 1-4 other committees of the Council for which they are the Council-committee liaison. They meet with citizens. They answer emails and social media posts of citizens. They answer emails of City staff and other Council members and some of their social media posts. They talk to the media. They attend some public events and public gatherings in their official capacity. They meet with City staff at their work site. They officially attend City events. They draft proposals for resolutions and ordinances (laws). They meet with other public entities such as school districts, fire, ambulance, technology, and other municipalities. They attend training and educational meetings and courses. An accounting of this time commitment is an average of about 21-23 hours per week for a fully engaged Council member. This commitment may approach 40-60+ hours during budget season (last quarter of each year).
According to most authorities, the Mayor should be the most informed and prepared member of the Council, and has many more public obligations than the average Council member. Some of those additional duties and time obligations include more intense study and understanding of every issue in every meeting and packet produced by staff or other agencies. The Mayor has much more media interaction. The Mayor has additional agency meetings and interactions for which to prepare and attend. The Mayor has many more public speaking obligations at public and city events for which they must prepare and attend. The Mayor emcees most City events. Additionally, the Mayor meets with City staff in preparation for running meeting agendas and additional subject understanding. The Mayor must travel more to meetings in out-of-town venues with other city and state officials. The Mayor should attend additional training and education sessions to master the presiding officer duties the Mayor has as a prime duty. An approximation of this additional time the Mayor must obligate to their personal schedule is 12-14 hours per week, in addition to the baseline of a Council member’s obligations.
To summarize the time obligations of an engaged Council member and Mayor, the Council member may expect to add 21-23 hours to their personal schedule. A fully engaged Mayor would be expected to spend a total of 33-37 hours per week on average. So, anybody who serves on Council has at least a half time job added to their other time obligations. The Mayor has basically added another full-time job to their personal and professional time obligations! Those persons who may be seeking those offices must be prepared to fit this time obligation to the 8000+ citizens of Woodland Park into their personal schedule of other family and work obligations, if they do their due diligence expected of them by those who elected them.
In addition, any Council member may expect to add travel time (400-1000 miles, not covered by reimbursed expense reporting) and commuting expenses of up to $1000 per year to their budget, until such time as the voters approve a stipend to Council to assist in covering this out-of-pocket expenditure type and others such as baby/pet-sitting.
These are average estimates based on actual experience and time logs of this Council member who serves as Mayor Pro-tem currently. These obligations are among the most prevalent reasons that retired persons fill these public servant slots. Please submit any questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. All questions will be considered and judged for public interest in this media forum, or in a future publication.
Val Carr currently serves on the Woodland Park City Council as Mayor Pro Tem, and additionally on the Boards of Mountain Arts Council, and Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo, among others. He retired from his successful communications software engineering firm and has served in public service volunteer positions with many non-profits in Colorado and California for 25+ years.