Mayor-Council Form of City Government

By: Stuart A. MacCorkle

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 1, 1995

A mayor-council city government in Texas consists of a mayor and a number of council members or aldermen. The mayor is elected at large, and the aldermen may be elected at large but generally are chosen from wards or aldermanic districts. The mayor presides at council meetings and is the chief executive officer of the city. He is properly the head of the police force and the budgetary officer of the city. The council is the legislative agent; the proposals and appointments of the mayor are or may be subject to its approval.

This form of city government has assumed two types in Texas. Both the weak mayor-council and the strong mayor-council are characterized by a mayor elected at large and a council elected either by wards, at large, or by a combination of the two. In the weak mayor-council type, the mayor is not a chief executive in the true sense. His powers are limited in appointments and removals, as well as veto, and there are a large number of elected officials and boards. Many legal powers of the council prevent him from effectively supervising city administration. None of the ten largest cities of Texas has this form. In the strong mayor-council form, the mayor has the power to appoint and remove most department heads, and only a few officials are elected. In addition, he prepares the budget for the council's consideration and has an effective veto power. In the early 1990s only Houston and El Paso had strong mayor-council governments. In Houston the mayor is assisted by a chief administrator, who is appointed by and may be removed by the mayor, and by an elected controller, responsible for the budget. This allows the mayor to delegate much administrative work.

As of May 1991 most of the 1,175 incorporated Texas cities, towns, and villages used one of the two types of mayor-council government. In the 1990s this form of government continued to be the most popular in general-law cities and towns but steadily declined in favor among home-rule cities. Of the 286 home-rule cities in 1991, only thirty-one had the mayor-council form of city government.

Forms of City Government (7th ed., Austin: Institute of Public Affairs, University of Texas, 1968).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stuart A. MacCorkle, “Mayor-Council Form of City Government,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995