By Gabriel Monte: CNJ Staff Writer
The Clovis City Charter defines the role of mayor very simply: He is the ceremonial head of the city, presides over city commission meetings and has no voting power unless one is needed to break a tie.
But the actual role of mayor encompasses much more, officials said.
Some elected officials say the mayor is effectively the leader and the voice of the city, and his or her role is determined to some extent by the individual elected to the office.
Clovis voters will elect a new mayor in March.
“It’s an opportunity to influence the direction of the community and that is only possible through the ability to communicate a message that makes sense that people can identify with and that they are a part of,” said Mayor David Lansford, who announced in November that he would not be seeking a fourth term.
“Just by the nature of the position, he’s looked at as the leader of the community,” said Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas.
City Commissioner Len Vohs said the mayor’s role as a leader comes into play especially during times of disaster.
“When we had the tornado, I think Mayor Lansford did a fantastic job to rally the citizens of our community to a call of action and make sure that everybody knew that it was going to be okay and the city government was doing everything in its power to make sure help was on the way and the victims weren’t alone,” he said.
But the mayor’s role as ceremonial head of the city has an important function, according to City Commissioner Isidro Garcia. As the figurative face of the city, the mayor must express the needs of the community to state and federal officials, he said.
“We get important people who come into town, and we need a mayor that’s aggressive and can be up front and not be afraid to speak or ask for what we need,” Garcia said.
Lansford said one of his duties early in his role as mayor was to foster a working relationship among the city commissioners.
“When I took office 12 years ago, there seemed to be a lot of tension on the city commission, there was a factionalized body of leaders,” he said.
Lansford said that relationship has helped him accomplish a number of projects city commissioners supported, such as the realignment of tax revenues for parks and recreation, drainage projects and the civic center.
He said influence also has helped him garner the trust of city commissioners to make decisions as the city’s representative on the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water authority, where he has a vote on the direction of the Ute Water project. The project proposes to build a pipeline to deliver water from Ute Lake to Clovis and eight other entities.
“They’ve given me the freedom and latitude to make decisions in the best interest of the city,” he said.
But that influence is something whoever is elected to the mayor’s seat must work for, Lansford said.
“That trust gets built over time,” he said. “You don’t get elected to a position and suddenly everybody trusts you. That is gained through interaction, through experience, through circumstances that give you the opportunity to prove that you’re worthy of their trust.”
The role and duties of the mayor are listed in the City Charter, section 5-2, which states the mayor:
• Shall preside at all meetings of the Commission and perform other duties, consistent with his/her office, as imposed by the Commission;
• Is the official head of the city for all ceremonial purposes and for all military purposes; and
• Has the right to vote only in the event of a tie vote of the commission.