Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

UM Votes: Understanding Municipal Goverment

In this blog post, Voting Ambassador Jaycee Brown, explores municipal government leading up to our local municipal elections this year. She breaks down different types of municipal government and how they function here in Lafayette-Oxford. 

Presidential Elections receive global attention, and there is usually a higher percentage of voter turnout than state and local elections. The upcoming municipal elections are critical. These
positions affect our lives daily, from the small things like how much we pay for parking to more significant issues like affordable housing. Many students are uninformed on what municipal elections encompass and the importance of them.

Municipal elections vary by the historically five governance forms. The different forms have separate approaches to the structure of government in a city or town. The forms include Council-Manager, Mayor-Council, Commission, Town Meeting, and Representative Town Meeting. You can learn more about these here.

The most prevalent governance forms in Mississippi are Mayor-Council, Council-Manager, and Commission. Municipal offices include but are not limited to the Mayor, Board of Alderman, and City Council. The Board of Alderman represents different wards or districts. For example, Oxford has six wards that include several parts of the city.

The excerpt below is taken from the City of Oxford’s webpage:

“The Board of Alderman is composed of seven members with one alderman elected at-large. Both the Mayor and the Board are elected for four-year terms. The mayor has the superintending power of all the officers, employees, and affairs of the city. Additionally, a chief operating officer and chief financial officer assist with day to day operations of the city and its staff.” The Board meets every First and Third Tuesday of the month at 5:00 pm. These meetings are live-streamed and can be found on the city’s YouTube page.

Oxford can be described as a Mayor-Alderman form of municipal government. This is synonymous with the Mayor-Council dynamic. A mayor is elected by voters as well as alderpersons, who serve as spokespersons for different regions. Responsibilities of the mayor include administrative and budget oversight. The council serves as the legislative body, and the mayor (executive branch) is tasked with carrying out the council’s policies. There are variations among the Mayor-Council government depending on the scope of authority. There can be strong or weak Mayor-Council dynamics that affect the characteristics of power/governance.

The mayor and council/alderman usually share responsibilities such as administrative duties and budget planning. They work together to come to decisions. For example, they agreed to uphold the Governor’s mask mandate lift and discussed other aspects that followed that ruling during their board meeting on March 2, 2021. They discussed the reserved curbside parking spaces and
sign ordinances. That shows how our local governments affect everyday aspects of our lives.

As noted, municipal governments can vary and confuse voters. Hopefully, this information serves as a starting point for those who want to learn more about small government functions.
Mississippi uses three general forms: mayor-council, commission, or council-manager government. The easiest way to find your form of government is to call your local circuit clerk or city hall. You may even notice the similarities between the forms mentioned and how your city, town, or village operates. It’s essential to be informed on the municipal elections because those who hold those offices shape our lives in many ways.

If you’re interested in learning more about municipal governments, feel free to reach out to our Voter Ambassadors. You can email engaged@olemiss.edu for more information.


For your reference:

Jaycee Brown