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Meeker Says Raleigh Needs Full-Time Mayor

Mayor Charles Meeker says it's time for a city Raleigh's size to have a mayor with more clout than one City Council vote.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker thinks his job should be full-time. That’s how it works in most large cities in the U.S.

Tampa, Fla., and Pittsburgh are about the same size as Raleigh, and both have full time mayors. Even Richmond, Va., which is considerably smaller, has a full-time mayor.

All of North Carolina's big cities, including Raleigh and Charlotte, have mayors who only work part time, however.

Sometimes Raleigh’s City Council is solidly behind a project. Fayetteville Street and the Convention Center are examples. Other times, though, issues get stuck, such as a proposal for traffic circles on Hillsborough Street.

Mayor Charles Meeker thinks the person who occupies his office should have more power to move things along than comes from having one vote.

“People expect the mayor to get things done, yet the mayor doesn't have any formal authority to do so,” Meeker argues.

Right now, Raleigh has a city manager form of government. The city manager acts as a CEO, running day-to-day operations.

Not everyone agrees with Meeker.

“I think the system we have now forces us to work together, to listen to each other and forces us to come up with solutions to problems and also to work for compromise,” says Council Member Jessie Taliaferro.

Critics of Meeker’s idea say a mayor in charge could lead to inefficiency. Voters could elect someone who doesn't have the training to run a city, they say.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities says the city manager form of government has served the state well. The group’s leaders say that shifting more power to the mayor would be a huge change for the state.

Peace College political science Professor David McLennan says he believes there's room for compromise.

“You could keep the city manager doing all the day-to-day operations and have a mayor involved in more strategic and public relations kinds of duties,” McLennan suggests.