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What is a Mayor Pro Tempore?

To understand what a Mayor Tempore (usually abbreviated as Mayor Pro Tem) is you need to understand the duties of the Mayor.  These duties are dependent on the type of city the Mayor has been elected in.  The different types of cities in Texas are home-rule cities or general law cities and our firm has written several blogs on the differences.  In Texas, the duties of an elected Mayor in a General Law city are found in the Texas Local Government Code.  Section 22.042 of the Code states:

The mayor: (1) is the “chief executive officer” of the city; (2) must “actively ensure that the laws and ordinances of the municipality are properly carried out”; (3) must “inspect the conduct of each subordinate municipal officer and shall cause any negligence, carelessness, or other violation of duty to be prosecuted and punished”; and (4) must give to the city council “any information, and shall recommend to the governing body any measure, that relates to improving the finances, police, health, security, cleanliness, comfort, ornament, or good government of the municipality.”

The mayor pro tem does not actually become the mayor but instead assumes the duties of the mayor, including presiding at meetings of the governing body. Loc. Gov. Code §22.037(b). When assuming the duties of mayor, the mayor pro tem does not lose the power to vote, even when presiding at the meetings.  A majority of the elected officials elect the Mayor Pro Tem per the same statute.

Generally, the duties of an elected Mayor in a home-rule city will not be vastly different, nor will the election process, but the Mayor’s duties will be explicitly set forth in the home-rule charter rather than in Texas statutes (Local Government Code). One major difference is that in General Law Cities the Mayor does not get a vote on city matters unless there is a tie.  Additional information can be found on the Texas Secretary of State website regarding Mayors here.

So what exactly is a “Mayor Pro Tem”?  Sometimes referred to as a Deputy Mayor (defined by home-rule charter), the role assumes mayoral duties in the event of a mayor’s absence. The Latin term “pro tempore” means “for the time being,” so the title of mayor pro tem is a temporary assignment, similar to a “place-holder”.  Basically, if the Mayor is out of town, sick, or simply unavailable or unable to preside and run the city council meeting or appear on behalf of the city she serves the Mayor Pro Tem will be the “place-holder” and do it instead.  The Mayor Pro Tem acts temporarily as Mayor and the conditions for the place-holding for home-rule cities are found in home-rule charters and city policy; for general law cities   §22.037(b) as referenced above.

Regarding city council meetings, this is an essential job as most, if not all, city council meetings follow Roberts Rule of Order, the rules for conducting business in meetings, and generally a chairperson (the Chair means the presiding officer, whether temporary or permanently in charge of the meeting) is the Mayor.

In addition to other duties the Mayor, by Texas law, is the emergency management director for a city unless he designates an individual to act as director, and many Texas cites have a designated Emergency Management Director.  The Texas Disaster Act found in Chapter 418 of the Government Code; specifically §418.1015 provides the mayor (or designee) with emergency management powers. During an emergency the Mayor has the same powers, on a local level, as the governor.   The mayor is also the official responsible for declaring a local state of disaster or requesting that the governor declare a state of emergency, or ordering an evacuation.  It is possible, unless prohibited by a home rule city charter, that the Mayor Pro Tem would be called upon to serve these emergency duties should the Mayor be unable to do so; again on a temporary basis.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our commercial and business litigation practice can be found here.

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