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When the mayor and Chief Executive Officer have a good working relationship, it helps to promote good understanding and communication between the elected members and the administration. And this, in turn, promotes good governance.

Good relationships help the administration and councillors to anticipate, identify and resolve issues, contribute to good planning and create a positive organisational culture.


Trust is fundamental to the relationship between the mayor and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It is not necessarily automatic and must be built using communication, understanding of each other’s roles and open sharing of information.

Establishing good communication

Both the mayor and CEO should ideally share information that helps each other to do their jobs. Through discussion, they should gain a clear understanding about which kind of information is important, as well as what each needs to know from the other.

Setting up regular meetings, in addition to those which occur around specific issues or when problems arise, will enhance planning and communication. Following the ‘no surprises’ principle is also a good idea. Because the mayor and CEO are in a position to brief each other, neither should be surprised by information or issues that are raised in other forums.

Clarifying each other’s roles

Both the mayor and CEO need to understand and respect the other’s role. The mayor may spend a considerable length of time in the council offices each week so it’s important for both to have a clear understanding of their different roles. And this should be an ongoing discussion.

The power differential between each role needs to be acknowledged. While the mayor has status and is the leader of the council and councillors, the position has no direct authority outside the council chamber. The CEO, on the other hand, has direct authority under Section 94 (A) of the Local Government Act 1989. It can be frustrating for the mayor and councillors that they can’t just ‘fix’ some problems that come to their attention, while the CEO has this capacity.

A good relationship between the two roles will recognise that the mayor’s position is one of ‘first among equals’ – that is, the mayor is one of the democratically elected councillors who has slightly more responsibility or power during their term, but once the term is over will become one of those equals again. While building the relationship with the new mayor, the CEO is in a position to support the former mayor in their transition back to the role of councillor.

Keeping an outward focus

The mayor and CEO should ensure that their relationship is outwardly, rather than inwardly, focussed. Together they can promote good communication and information sharing, not only between each other, but also to and between the council and the administration. The focus should be to keep councillors and the administration in the loop rather than hanging on to information and using it to strengthen their own positions.


“A good relationship should ensure there are no ‘surprises’ for councillors or the administration.”